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What was new in adtech, in April

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Rounding up the stories of the month, there is no escaping the word “coronavirus” or “Covid-19”, as the pandemic continues to take hold and affect every corner of the ecosystem.

As news brands state they are due to lose £50m in ad revenue over the next three months as advertisers don’t want to be seen alongside coronavirus content, AI media company GumGum actually found 62% of Covid-19 related keywords to be safe. GumGum’s machine-learning-based content analysis and brand-safety engine, Verity, identified 2.85 million unique web pages that contained relevant coronavirus keywords across its publisher network, It found brands which rely on keyword blocklists for brand safety reasons had been blocking certain pages because they contained words such as “covid”, “covid19”, “covid-19”, “covid 19”, “coronavirus”, “corona virus”, “pandemic”, or “quarantine”, Campaign reports. Yet, GumGum’s analysis tool deemed 1.5 million of these pages to be brand safe.

Industry representative for UK newspaper publishers, Newsworks, aimed to raise awareness of the damaging impact on publisher revenues caused by overzealous blocklists and launched an initiative called #BackdontBlock. As part of the campaign, Newsworks on behalf of the news industry asked advertisers to remove blocklists from trusted UK news brands to ensure they can continue to fund journalism, The Drum reports.

Looking at what type of editorial content consumers are currently reading, Teads tracked consumption trends across different categories to empower advertisers with smart contextual decision-making capabilities, as the crisis and its widespread implications compelled the UK population to read more online content. Using its Media Barometer, Teads analysed the most-read and fastest-growing topics over a 30-day period and found content related to health, wellness, and hospitals increased by 80%. Health in relation to diet and nutrition also saw a 15% and 18% increase respectively. What was possibly more surprising was that content related to marketing saw pageviews rising by 58%.

Other findings include:

  • Cooking content, in particular topics relating to recipes and ingredients, increased by 50%
  • Video game content increased by 66%
  • Livelihoods are a top concern, as loans had a 91% increase in reader consumption, followed by careers (62%) and business enterprise (35%)

The latest IPA Bellwether report for Q1 2020 was also released during April, and it painted a sobering picture, with marketing budgets down and declining at their fastest rate since the global financial crisis a decade ago. With broad-based cuts to all forms of marketing activity, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, as 18.9% of respondents signalled growth for the quarter, and many were confident growth will resume later in the year. You can see how the industry reacted to the findings, here.

Yet, as coronavirus has caused uncertainty and put a pause on ad spending across different platforms and placements, communities have been turning to social networks to connect during lockdown. Neighbourhood hub Nextdoor has seen engagement rate increase by 81% in the UK, with the platform being used to help those offline that need help such as elderly neighbours and those with underlying medical conditions who may be isolated or need someone to pick up shopping and medications. Top search terms on Nextdoor also reveal a shift in focus from consumers with searches for “lawnmower”, “takeaway”, and “fitness” increased 120%, 460%, and 550% respectively, and keywords such as Tesco jump from #280 to #40 in search rankings.

Shedding some positive light, AT&T’s earnings revealed its advertising company, Xandr, has thrived during this difficult period, growing by nearly 15% – as more global advertisers and publishers turn to Xandr’s advanced tech for CTV capabilities. During the crisis, the company has used its tech and consumer insights to serve important causes such as Ad Council, Red Cross, and Clean the World Foundation, and serve billions of impressions for its Tech for Good initiatives on TV and digital. 

Lastly, not adtech related, but worthy of a mention. As footfall through the streets of UK cities has declined significantly, for the first time in 29 years The Big Issue has taken its vendors off the streets to safeguard them against Covid-19. Instead, the magazine will be available to buy in stores and supermarkets. Here’s our take.