E-commerce, online video set to fuel global ad spend recovery

E-commerce, online video set to fuel global ad spend recovery
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Updated 27 July 2021

E-commerce, online video set to fuel global ad spend recovery

E-commerce, online video set to fuel global ad spend recovery
  • Digital channels will contribute to ad industry’s recovery: Zenith forecast

DUBAI: Global spending on advertising was expected to grow by 11.2 percent this year to $669 billion, according to new industry figures.

The expenditure boom was being driven by demand for performance-led e-commerce advertising and brand advertising on online video, said Zenith in its latest advertising expenditure forecasts report.

If the predictions ring true, the total spend this year will be $40 billion more than before the start of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in 2019. And growth was likely to remain robust in the medium term, at an anticipated 6.9 percent next year, and 5.6 percent in 2023.

“After a very tough year last year, the ad market is enjoying rapid and broad-based recovery, and will end this year well above the level it achieved in 2019,” said Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting at Zenith, which is part of Publicis Groupe.

A rise in ad spending was expected globally this year with the Middle East and North Africa region, currently recovering from the steepest decline, forecast to see expenditure increase by 15 percent.

According to data, the strongest growth since 2019 was taking place in North America where spending was up 13 percent this year after shrinking by only 1 percent last year.

Effect of e-commerce on advertising market

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift from physical sales to e-commerce, driving more consumers than ever before to research and complete purchases online. Brands responded to the change in customer behavior by forming partnerships with retailers and creating new direct-to-consumer operations, using performance-driven advertising – primarily in social media and paid search – to lead consumers down the path to buy.

The Zenith report noted that the patterns would expand social media advertising by 25 percent this year to reach $137 billion, overtaking in scale for the first time paid search that was expected to grow by 19 percent to $135 billion.

FASTFACTS

Ad spend will exceed the pre-pandemic peak by 6% this year.

Digital advertising will command 58% share of market in 2021, up from 48% in 2019.

Online video advertising will be fastest-growing digital channel in 2021, rising 26% to reach $63bn.

The average cost of television advertising is up 5% this year.

Middle East, North Africa region will see growth of 15% in ad spend this year.

A significant part of the new money being pumped into advertising was coming from small businesses that had to pivot to e-commerce due to COVID-19 lockdowns, and from brands that reallocated money from securing physical shelf space with retailers to display and search ads on retailers’ websites.

As lockdowns ease around the world, the growth of e-commerce will slow down but not return to pre-pandemic levels, the report revealed, adding that e-commerce would continue to pull in incremental revenues to the ad market, driving growth next year of 13 percent in social media and 12 percent in search.

Growth of online video

Audiences continued to migrate online where video viewing was growing rapidly, the report found, and despite traditional television ratings experiencing a surge when lockdowns began last year, they were shrinking again.

Advertisers valued online video as a means of maintaining reach while TV declined, but it was also an effective form of brand communication in its own right. Zenith predicted that online video advertising would be the fastest-growing digital channel this year, rising by 26 percent to reach $63 billion.

Benoit Cacheux, global chief digital officer at Zenith, said: “The online video landscape continues to transform, fueled by the growth of streaming services and connected TVs.

“Its continued evolution requires a radical rethink of how to build the optimal screen-neutral reach model. The ingestion of new data sources into TV planning also creates further opportunities to further sync TV and video planning.”

Traditional media will continue to trail behind digital

Overall, Zenith expected digital advertising to grow by 19 percent this year and increase its share of total ad spend to 58 percent, up from 48 percent in 2019, and 54 percent last year.

Most other media channels were enjoying growth this year, as spending rebounded from the 16 percent drop in traditional media ad spend in 2020. Cinema and out-of-home were the most affected by COVID-19-related restrictions, shrinking by 72 percent and 28 percent, respectively, but were expected to witness the fastest recovery this year with respective growth rates of 116 percent and 16 percent.

Radio advertising, which shrank by 22 percent last year, was forecast to grow by 4 percent this year, while television fell 8 percent in 2020 and was predicted to grow 1 percent in 2021.

Print would continue its long decline, now in its 14th consecutive year, with an 8 percent drop in ad spend in 2021, the report said.

Although cinema and out-of-home would have made up almost all lost ground by 2023, ad spend across traditional channels would still be below 2019 levels.

Cost of advertising

This year’s rapid recovery, coupled with the continued migration of audiences from traditional to digital channels, was fueling substantial increases in media prices, particularly in television.

The cost of television advertising was up 5 percent this year on average, though the variance between markets and audiences was wide. Television spend has increased by 1 percent, so the volume of audiences reached globally has shrunk.

In contrast, digital media growth was mainly driven by rising audiences and more extensive monetization with online video inflation averaging 7 percent, and social media roughly flat, compared to their 26 percent and 25 percent respective ad spend growth rates.

“Digital advertising is becoming a more effective tool for brand growth as media and commerce continue to move online, attracting greater investment from large brands and small businesses alike,” added Barnard.


Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016

Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016
Updated 21 September 2021

Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016

Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016
  • The social media giant said it now has 40,000 people working on safety and security
  • Facebook played down the negative effects on young users of its Instagram app

DUBAI: Facebook Inc. said on Tuesday it has invested more than $13 billion in safety and security measures since 2016.
This comes days after a newspaper reported the company had failed to fix “the platform’s ill effects” researchers had identified.
The social media giant said it now has 40,000 people working on safety and security, compared with 10,000 five years ago.
Facebook played down the negative effects on young users of its Instagram app and had a weak response to alarms raised by employees over how the platform is used in developing countries by human traffickers, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing a review of internal company documents.
“In the past, we didn’t address safety and security challenges early enough in the product development process,” the company said in a blog post
“But we have fundamentally changed that approach.”
Facebook said its artificial intelligence technology has helped it block 3 billion fake accounts in the first half of this year. The company also removed more than 20 million pieces of false COVID-19 and vaccine content.
The company said it now removes 15 times more content that violates its standards on hate speech across Facebook and its image-sharing platform Instagram than when it first began reporting it in 2017.


Netflix offers free plan in Kenya to entice new subscribers

The free plan started on Monday and will roll out across Kenya in the coming days. (File/AFP)
The free plan started on Monday and will roll out across Kenya in the coming days. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 September 2021

Netflix offers free plan in Kenya to entice new subscribers

The free plan started on Monday and will roll out across Kenya in the coming days. (File/AFP)
  • Netflix offers free mobile plan with one-quarter of its TV shows and movies in Kenya to increase frowth
  • The free plan is available on Android mobile phones and will not have ads

LOS ANGELES: Netflix Inc. on Monday began offering a free mobile plan with about one-quarter of its TV shows and movies in Kenya, a strategy aimed at sparking growth in a key African market, the company told Reuters.
The free plan is available on Android mobile phones and will not have ads. It features Netflix movies and TV shows such as dramas “Money Heist” and “Bridgerton” and African series “Blood & Water,” plus some of the programming the company licenses from others. Netflix hopes the free plan will lead to users signing up for a paid option with more content.
The world’s largest streaming video service is looking to add customers outside of more saturated markets such as the United States, where new subscriber signups have slowed at a time when competition for online audiences has intensified.
Executives remain bullish on the long-term future, noting there are large markets where streaming television is just starting to take hold. To attract customers in Africa, Netflix is investing in locally made programming such as “Queen Sono” and “Jiva!” and has partnered with production studios in Nigeria.
“If you’ve never watched Netflix before — and many people in Kenya haven’t — this is a great way to experience our service,” Cathy Conk, director of product innovation at Netflix, said in a blog post. “And if you like what you see, it’s easy to upgrade to one of our paid plans so you can enjoy our full catalog on your TV or laptop as well.”
The free plan started on Monday and will roll out across Kenya in the coming days.
The non-paying Netflix subscribers in Kenya will not be counted in the paid total the company reports each quarter, a spokesperson said.
Netflix has experimented with free offers before. In 2020, it made some episodes of series such as “Stranger Things” and movies including “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” available around the world for no charge via web browsers.
The free plan in Kenya is broader. It will look similar to paid Netflix profiles to give viewers a feel for the service, the spokesperson said. Shows that are not included in the free plan will be marked with a lock icon. Clicking on one of those titles will encourage the user sign up for a paid option.
Anyone 18 or older in Kenya can enroll in the free plan and create up to five profiles. No payment information will be required.
Some functions, such as the ability to download a show or movie, will not be available under the free plan.
Netflix, which streams in more than 190 countries, has taken other steps to boost usage in Africa, including creation of a paid mobile-only plan and partnerships with local telecom operators to ease payments.
The company reported 209 million paying customers worldwide at the end of June. New member pickups slowed in the first half of 2021 after a boom early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Africa currently is a relatively small market for streaming TV subscriptions. Digital TV Research projects Netflix will lead subscription video on demand services on the continent with 6.26 million paying customers in 2026, followed by Walt Disney Co’s Disney+.


Arab journalists’ body, Facebook, media groups join forces to empower women writers

Arab journalists’ body, Facebook, media groups join forces to empower women writers
Updated 21 September 2021

Arab journalists’ body, Facebook, media groups join forces to empower women writers

Arab journalists’ body, Facebook, media groups join forces to empower women writers
  • Year-long campaign to end online harassment against women journalists proves major success

DUBAI:Women have long faced discrimination in the workplace with issues ranging from unfair pay gaps to unconscious biases.

And the switch to remote working due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has brought its own set of challenges, especially for women as they struggle juggling home and work responsibilities.

In addition, women working online have also had to contend with sexual harassment, misogyny, hate speech, trolls, and other forms of abuse.

According to a study by the International Center for Journalists and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, 20 percent of participants said their experience of online abuse, harassment, threats, or attacks had been “much worse than usual” after the COVID-19 outbreak.

In the region, a 2020 study by Arab Barometer found that there was a 56 percent decrease in the odds of being an internet user for women as opposed to men. Women faced “immense barriers to full participation in the digital sphere” reflective of issues in real life, the survey reported.

“Cultural norms, gender roles, biases, and stereotypes often dissuade and even prevent women from accessing the internet, gaining digital literacy, and participating in the digital economy or society,” the report added.

While the online environment was precarious for all women, female journalists were discovered to be among those who faced the most online abuse, including intimidation and threats.

In response to the trends and to protect female journalists from online abuse, Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism in partnership with the Facebook Journalism Project, WAN-IFRA’s Women in News, the International Women’s Media Foundation, and the International Research and Exchanges Board, along with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office, last year launched a 12-month project, titled “I Will Not Stay Silent,” targeting the Arab journalistic community.

The IWNSS multidisciplinary project, was set up to create an inclusive digital public space free of exclusion, sexism, discrimination, and all other forms of injustice, for women and men in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Mohammed Omar, Facebook’s MENA news partnerships manager, said: “Attacks such as online bullying, doxing, threats, and sexual harassment are serious problems that have only become more prominent and coordinated in recent years.

“By taking part in the online webinars, journalists, especially women journalists, are empowered to come forward and speak in a safe space about the problems they have faced at work,” he added.

As part of the program, 13 webinars were held addressing topics such as how to deal with privacy issues, gender terms in media, gender balance in media coverage, and sexual harassment in the newsroom and on the internet.

The webinars reached 1.3 million people on Facebook with more than 2,000 journalists joining in via video conferencing. The 13th webinar, which was an open discussion for all participants, reached 92,000 people and had 953 participants on the platform.

Rawan Damen, director general of ARIJ, said: “With such a knowledgeable, supportive consortium, we were able to launch and execute IWNSS, which is much needed to protect the ecosystem of investigative journalism in particular and journalism in MENA as a whole.”

In addition to the webinars, IWNSS held live training, one-on-one clinics, and offered extra resources and tools to help journalists.

The ARIJ academy and Facebook also held a free online diploma program between June and September for 20 trainees, targeting media professionals, especially female journalists and HR professionals, and, said the ARIJ, “anyone professionally interested to have the tools to deal with various forms of misuse of authority in the work environment and beyond.”

Damen added: “The uniqueness of this project is not only in its regional focus but in its use of five different methods to achieve a comprehensive result; wide awareness, in-depth, focused live training, one-to-one clinics, self-based tools, and digital campaigns.”

Moving forward, IWNSS has launched 200 digital one-to-one clinics to provide the necessary tools to help journalists project themselves in the digital world. The clinics are free of charge and those interested can apply through ARIJ.


Georgian chess champion sues Netflix for ‘sexist’ portrayal in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

Netflix faces defamation suit for wrong portrayal of female chess champion in the Queen's Gambit. (Netflix)
Netflix faces defamation suit for wrong portrayal of female chess champion in the Queen's Gambit. (Netflix)
Updated 20 September 2021

Georgian chess champion sues Netflix for ‘sexist’ portrayal in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

Netflix faces defamation suit for wrong portrayal of female chess champion in the Queen's Gambit. (Netflix)

LONDON: Georgian chess champion Nona Gaprindashvili filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday against Netflix, accusing the streaming giant of incorrectly portraying her in the hit series “The Queen’s Gambit.”

Gaprindashvili, 80, said Netflix’s claim in the series that she “never faced men” is “grossly sexist and belittling.”

The lawsuit refers to a specific line in the series finale which compares the main character, Elizabeth Harmon, to Gaprindashvili. The series makes a notable distinction between the fictional character and Gaprindashvili, which is that the latter never faced men during her chess tournaments. 

In the finale, a character narrates: “Elizabeth Harmon’s not at all an important player by their standards. The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex. And even that’s not unique in Russia. There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.”

Gaprindashvili began playing chess at 13, became the female world champion at 20 and was the first woman to be awarded the title of grandmaster, the highest title a chess player can attain. 

Contrary to Netflix’s portrayal, Gaprindashvili did indeed face men, 59 of them, including 28 in one simultaneous match when the series was supposedly set in 1968. 

“They were trying to do this fictional character who was blazing the trail for other women, when in reality I had already blazed the trail and inspired generations,” Gaprindashvili said in an interview with the New York Times. “That’s the irony.”

Another notable item in the lawsuit relates to Gaprindashvili’s nationality. While the series portrayed her as Russian, she in fact is Georgian and was born in Zugdidi, Georgia.

Netflix responded to Gaprindashvili and said it “has only the utmost respect for Ms Gaprindashvili and her illustrious career, but we believe this claim has no merit and will vigorously defend the case.”


Lawyer says US journalist in Myanmar jail seems disheartened

Lawyer says US journalist in Myanmar jail seems disheartened
Updated 20 September 2021

Lawyer says US journalist in Myanmar jail seems disheartened

Lawyer says US journalist in Myanmar jail seems disheartened
  • US journalist Danny Fenster appeared disheartened during a court hearing Monday, his lawyer said
  • Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was trying to board a flight to go to the US
BANGKOK: US journalist Danny Fenster, imprisoned in Myanmar for almost four months while awaiting trial, appeared disheartened during a court hearing Monday, his lawyer said.
Fenster has been charged with incitement — spreading inflammatory information — an offense for which he could be sentenced to up to three years’ imprisonment. The charge does not specify what he is accused of doing.
The military-installed government that took power in February has sought to curb independent news media by canceling their licenses and arresting dozens of journalists.
Fenster is being detained in Yangon’s Insein Prison, an overcrowded facility which for decades has housed political prisoners.
Lawyer Than Zaw Aung said Fenster seemed demoralized when he spoke with him in a video conference during Monday’s court hearing, his first opportunity to do so in more than a month. Hearings are conducted by video at a township court instead of in a special courtroom at the prison because of the coronavirus, which in the past few months has severely impacted Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.
“His hair grew longer. He seemed disappointed and he told me in a frustrated tone that ‘I have nothing to say,’” the lawyer said. “I asked him if he had been vaccinated by the prison authorities, and he said no. His words showed that he is not feeling well. He didn’t request anything.”
Fenster said in mid-July that he believed he had contracted COVID-19 and was not given medicine he had requested. Prison authorities denied he was infected.
Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was trying to board a flight to go to the Detroit area in the United States to see his family. He is the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, an independent online news outlet based in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city.
“We are very concerned about Danny’s physical and mental health, particularly given his demeanor at today’s hearing,” said Thomas Kean, editor-in-chief of Frontier. “It’s totally understandable that he would be frustrated and disappointed -– he should never have been detained in the first place. Danny is now approaching four months in Insein Prison and there is no reason for the authorities to hold him a single day longer. He should be released immediately so he can go home to his family.”
Monday’s hearing was held to extend Fenster’s pre-trial detention, and set Oct. 4 for his next appearance. It was not clear if it could include allowing an application for release on bail.
Press associations and free speech organizations around the world have called for Fenster’s release, as has the US government.
“We remain deeply concerned over the continued detention of US citizen Danny Fenster who was working as a journalist in Burma,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier this month after Fenster marked his 100th day in detention. The United States refers to Myanmar as Burma, its name before a military government changed it in 1989.
“Journalism is not a crime. The detention of Daniel Fenster and other journalists constitutes an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression in Burma,” Price said. “We continue to press Burma’s military regime to release Danny immediately. We will do so until he safely returns home to his family.”