News digest 14.09.2020

QR codes are defying skeptics and making a comeback


QR codes are making a comeback in the pandemic era, adopted by bars and restaurants and in marketing, retail, technology and payments.

Burger King, CVS, L'Oréal, 1-800-Flowers, and Walmart are among brands that have used QR codes in marketing or retail in recent months, for things like coupons and contactless payments that are considered more sanitary during the pandemic.

QR codes' momentum has been helped by tech platforms including Snapchat and Pinterest rolling out their own versions and Chinese apps like Tencent and Alibaba popularizing their usage and standardizing their technology.

Facebook announces new limits on how many ads pages can run concurrently


After announcing a coming limit on how many ads a business Page can run at any given time in November last year, Facebook has now outlined exactly how its new regulations will apply, with four tiers of advertiser categories that will define how many ads each can run concurrently.

"When an advertiser runs too many ads at once, each ad delivers less often. This means that fewer ads exit the learning phase, and more budget is spent before the delivery system can optimize performance."

Facebook's almost limitless ad targeting and customization options provide huge advantages, but it can also be tempting to constantly tinker with the details as you see the results come in - especially if you're running many ad variants. According to Facebook's data, that's problematic, which is why it's implementing new limits on how many ads you can run.

The smallest Facebook advertisers will still be able to run 250 ads at once, which is a lot, especially given the spending thresholds. Though it may be problematic for, say, the Trump campaign, which reportedly spent nearly $20 million on more than 218,000 different Facebook ads over the course of 2019.

The new limits will come into effect from February 2021, with a rolling implementation for Pages from that time - so you still have some time to refine your ads down in order to meet the above thresholds. Advertisers will be able to see when their ad limit will go into effect within Ads Manager.

Visualizing the Social Media Universe in 2020


Social media has seeped into virtually all aspects of modern life. The vast social media universe collectively now holds 3.8 billion users, representing roughly 50% of the global population.

With an additional billion internet users projected to come online in the coming years, it’s possible that the social media universe could expand even further.

Social media services are in a following order: 

A more detailed analysis of each could be found via the source link. 

TikTok and WeChat: curating and controlling global information flows


While most major international social media networks remain banned from the Chinese market in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Chinese social media companies are expanding overseas and building up large global audiences. Some of those networks—including WeChat and TikTok—pose challenges, including to freedom of expression, that governments around the world are struggling to deal with.

The Chinese ‘super-app’ WeChat, which is indispensable in China, has approximately 1.2 billion monthly active users worldwide, including 100 million installations outside of China. WeChat users outside of China are increasingly finding themselves trapped in a mobile extension of the Great Firewall of China through which they’re subjected to surveillance, censorship and propaganda. 

Newcomer TikTok, through its unparalleled growth in both Asian and Western markets, has a vastly larger and broader global audience of nearly 700 million as of July 2020. This report finds that TikTok engages in censorship on a range of political and social topics, while also demoting and suppressing content. Case studies in this report show how discussions related to LGBTQ+ issues, Xinjiang and protests in the US, for example, are being affected by censorship and the curation and control of information.

Leaked pitch deck reveals Cannes plans to host another virtual event in October


According to a pitch deck obtained by Ad Age, Cannes Lions plans to host yet another week-long virtual event called Lions Live: The Second Edition.

Lions Live: The Second Edition will be held from 19 to 23 October and will be dedicated to the current situation in the world. 

The first part of Lions Live was held in June, and its program included discussions, speeches by leading marketers and advertising industry representatives, as well as awarding of the best holdings, agencies and prominent figures of the decade.

Taboola and Outbrain call off their $850M merger


Online advertising is a game of scale, but one attempt to consolidate two competitors to better take on Google and Facebook has fallen apart. Taboola and Outbrain, startups that each provide publishers with ad-based content recommendation platforms, have called off a planned $850 million merger that would have valued the combined company at more than $2 billion.

The deal had been years in the making — it was first reported on the talks in 2015 — but was only finally pulled together about 11 months ago, in October 2019. However, between then and today, a combination of factors got in the way of it progressing.

Apple showing signs it may soon launch a search engine to compete against Google Search


For several years, it’s been reported that Google pays billions of dollars to Apple to remain the default search engine on Safari for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. The deal ensures that iPhone, iPad, and Mac users search with Google when they use Safari. The deal between Apple and Google may be coming to an end soon. In July 2020, Reuters reported that the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority was taking aim at the deal.

Regulatory pressure, a contentious relationship with Google, and the maturation of Apple’s Siri and iCloud are presenting an opportunity for Apple to create and launch a search engine. There are several signs right now that indicate Apple may be doing just that.

Apple doesn’t need Google’s money: Apple is now the world’s most valuable company. They may want the money Google gives them, but they don’t need it.

Apple is pouring resources and money into search: it is investing heavily in search, as shown in their job postings for search engineers. The job listings reveal they incorporate AI, ML, NLP, and more into all of their services and apps.

In July 2020, Apple published a significant update to its About Applebot support page. The additions are very similar to the details Google provides to webmasters and SEOs. Here are the changes they made to the Applebot support page.

A search engine from Apple will likely look and function slightly different from modern search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. That’s because Apple historically likes to do things differently, and their search engine will serve a different purpose than showing ads and data mining.