News Exchange: Bold moves and brand safety

News Exchange: Bold moves and brand safety

A weekly update on the latest headlines and highlights from the marketing sector

Apple takes a bite at Netflix

Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carrell, Jennifer Aniston and Oprah Winfrey. Apple certainly assembled an A-list team to announce its entry into the streaming market.

Launching in autumn, Apple TV Plus is a video subscription service focusing on new, original content including series and documentaries involving all of the aforementioned mega-stars. At the same event, the California-based tech giant also revealed that in May it will launch a revamped Apple TV app, which it hopes will catch on as a single platform through which consumers consolidate (and pay for) their various other TV apps and subscriptions. Prices have not been confirmed but the two services together are clearly designed to challenge Amazon Prime and, of course, Netflix.

“Apple is all about its ecosystem,” says CIM marketing director Gemma Butler. “At a time when it isn’t launching revolutionary new products, new services are an obvious way for it to draw more people into that ecosystem.” Indeed, the two services have been a long time in planning: it’s 18 months since Spielberg was signed up to reboot his Amazing Series on Apple TV Plus. Ecosystem aside, the services also stand alone as new revenue streams, just when iPhone sales are slowing down.

Last month, this column discussed BBC and ITV’s plans for Britbox. With Disney preparing to unveil its own streaming service later this year, the market is starting to feel a little crowded. “Consumers will soon have to start picking and choosing between the different services,” believes Butler. “That’s when the Apple TV app might come into its own – depending on the partners it can bring on board.”

It’s rumoured Apple will offer discounted bundle packages of streaming services through the app. This could have significant appeal to consumers faced with mounting monthly costs for maintaining individual subscriptions.

In the meantime, to draw people towards the app, Apple must focus on getting its original content right. With less than 10% of Netflix’s annual programming budget, it will need a better ratio of hits to misses to make its mark. “There’s a lot we still don’t know about Apple’s streaming plan – especially around prices – but, if the quality of content matches the quality of its announcement event, Netflix might just be looking at its first credible competitor,” concludes Butler.

Chicken coup

KFC has turned the Colonel into the Godfather. In a new ad campaign, the immortal founder of the world’s second-biggest restaurant chain cruises the streets of Chicken Town in a big red gas-guzzler. His presence alone intimidates his imitators (Houston Fried Chicken, Memphis Fried Chicken and others) before he pulls into a KFC and apparently puts in a shift in the kitchens. This all plays out against a soundtrack of Nino Rota’s famous Godfather theme.

“It’s bold and irreverent,” says CIM’s Ally Lee-Boone, “much like those memorable apology ads after it ran out of chicken last year.” As well as maintaining the tone of voice of the ‘FCK’ ads that ran in the Sun and Metro newspapers, KFC is splashing on print again. Accompanying the TV slot, press ads will feature images of KFC’s many imitators, with the tagline, ‘Guys, we’re flattered.’

“Print can be visually impactful. It’s a brave choice that shows you really stand by your message,” says Lee-Boone. “In this case, the creative element is fantastic once more. It’s a risky move to mention your ‘competitors’ and it’s not always a good look for a corporate giant to pick on smaller rivals, but the tone of voice is spot on and completely allays those fears.”

Finding the right tone has taken time, however. An earlier TV campaign, The Whole Chicken, starred a fearsome bird and was entertaining right until it was revealed as a KFC ad – at which point the creature’s implied death left many viewers questioning whether they wanted to eat meat at all.

Now that it’s found its tone, expect the world’s number-two restaurant chain to run with it. As Lee-Boone says, “KFC is seizing a chance to stake its claim to a quite different demographic, against a landscape of competitors who focus on family or value for money.”

Safety-first approach is best

The issue of online brand safety continues to provoke discussion among prominent marketers. Just recently, Tesco head of media and campaign planning Nick Ashley expressed frustration at the proportion of media spend he was having to devote to ad verification technology and other measures. “Publishers should take more responsibility,” he told a panel at Advertising Week Europe.

Not everyone agrees with him, however. In June last year, an Edelman Trust Barometer special report found 48% of consumers blamed brands if an advert appeared next to inappropriate online content. For CIM marketing director Gemma Butler, “Big publishers like YouTube have actually been doing a lot of work on this. The problem is that a lot is not enough. There is simply too much content to moderate.”

YouTube, to which 400 hours of content is uploaded every minute, no longer offers any guarantees. Matt Brittin, EMEA president of YouTube’s owner Google, told Marketing Week recently that YouTube would never be “100% brand safe”.

The world's second biggest advertiser, Unilever, has previously threatened to abandon platforms – including YouTube and Facebook – that it thought were not dealing with disinformation and offensive content. It never pulled the plug, but is now creating a 'white list' of safe publishers that it believes are combatting fraud and offer safe advertising environments. Earlier this year, AT&T went ahead and withdrew all of its advertising from YouTube, citing concerns about predatory comments being left on videos of children. The telecoms giant previously pulled its ads in 2017, before returning to the platform. Disney and Nestlé have also withdrawn adverts from YouTube this year.

“Social media is an alluring channel for brands – it’s where all of the eyes are. However, they do have to be careful,” advises Butler. “The rewards might be obvious, but marketers should also be weighing up the potential risks to their particular brand.”


Ready to make a bold move yourself? Come have a look at CIM Marketing Jobs.

Tobias Gourlay Journalist
Gemma Butler Marketing Director CIM
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