ㄒotally N𝐨𝐫𝐦al Newsletter 𝕋𝕚𝕥𝕝𝕖, 𝕹𝖔𝖙hing 𝓉𝑜 See ɦɛʀɛ

That little trick you're using to get around spam filters probably ain't going to work much longer.

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In Today’s Issue:

📧 Gmail is combatting the strange-character spam trick

🇨🇳 Microsoft partners with Baidu to for AI ad campaigns

🤖 ByteDance launches AI chatbot development platform

🛍️ Retail media grows fast but faces challenges

🔎 Google tests line separator between organic and paid results

🎵 Bug: Instagram’s old videos lose audio

Gmail’s Stronger Spam Filtering Might Catch Marketing Campaigns'

I don’t think you need to have a PhD to recognize that spam has gotten worse. Bad actors are getting more clever.

One trick, for instance, has been to substitute letters and numbers for shapes that look to the human eye nearly identical. A 0 (zero) for a letter O. Or using a unicode symbol, like the Mathematical Bold Capital C, which looks like a C but technically isn’t.

And I’m not saying you’ve done this, but you know, just in case you are doing this kind of stuff, you may soon be caught up in Google’s spam filters.

The company this week announced what it’s calling “one of the largest defense upgrades in recent years."

It says it’s an AI that’s been trained on that stuff, and works out-of-the-box on more than 100 languages. It basically ignores the crazy letters and tries to read it like a human would.

Ethical marketers haven’t usually spammed these characters, the way literally spammers do, but we have been guilty of dropping one of two of these symbols into words we know have a dangerous spam threshold. If your marketing campaign involves a contest, we’ve known for some time that you’d better try to obfuscate words like contest or win or sweepstakes, because those are pretty high on the spam hitlist.

Google says it’s been testing this for the last year, and is now active on consumer Gmail accounts.

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Microsoft Expands Ads and Google Import

Microsoft’s ad platform has had some updates in the past little while:

Baidu Partnership for AI

First, the company has partnered with Baidu Global, an AI company. You can pick up some of this enhancement by making sure your ad groups settings have “The entire Microsoft Advertising network” selected.

Microsoft Store Ads available in more markets

Second, Microsoft Store Ads are now generally available in all global markets where product ads are available. This means that advertisers can select geographic targeting as “worldwide” or any specific country, as long as the app is available in that market.

Video and CTV campaigns in 20 new markets

Third, you can now run Video and Connected TV (CTV) ads in 32 markets in total. Microsoft is doing a webinar Thursday about their Video and CTV offerings — we created a shortlink for you if you want to sign up… it’s https://b.link/microsoftwebinar

Predictive targeting in bulk

Fourth, you can now manage predictive targeting in bulk across all your ad groups. Navigate to the ad group level and add the predictive targeting column to toggle the feature On and Off across multiple ad groups at once.

Google Import

Finally, for those using Google Import to advertise with Microsoft, that tool can now import discovery and demand gen campaigns from Google Ads.

Will TikTok Roll Out Branded Chatbots Soon?

ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, is developing a platform to let brands create their own chatbots. This as the company tries to play catch-up in the race toward AI.

Chatbots have been up and down in the marketing world. Mark Zuckerberg famously extolled their virtues a few years back, nearly turning his company around to focus just on those, only to basically abandon the idea a few years later.

Reports say the chatbot platform could come in beta form by the end of this month. It’s also said to be working on its own text-to-image generator.

ByteDance did not comment on the media reports.

The move comes as ChatGPT recently unveiled the ability to create your own customized chatbots for specific tasks. So far, neither ChatGPT nor Google’s Bard are available in China. Microsoft’s bot, the recently renamed Copilot (formerly known as Bing Chat) is available across Asia, including in Hong Kong.


Agencies are cooling on their use of programmatic display ads. And the display format as a whole is falling out of favor. We have full coverage.

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Retail Media Set to Attract More Spend than Social Media

While consumer tech attention may be laser focused on AI and chatbots, most media buyers and marketers see retail media as the unicorn ahead.

And new numbers from eMarketer suggest it’s about to get even bigger.

Retail media are ad campaigns within a retailer’s advertising ecosystem — Walmart and Target are the leaders there, but also smaller apps like Instacart play in this space.

eMarketer has updated its US retail media ad spend forecast to show higher growth than previously estimated, culminating in $110 billion in spend by 2027.

Retail media is going to be the fastest growing ad channel across media through 2027, growing by more than 20% each year, according to our forecast.

By 2027, retail media will nearly tie with social media as No. 2 ad spend channel, second only to search.

Retail media will be bigger than connected TV, digital audio, traditional television advertising combined in 2027.


But despite these numbers, an Epsilon study found more than 2 in 5 advertisers worldwide don’t plan to change their retail media ad spend through 2026.

Why? A lack of measurement standardization and ad formats across retail networks lead the reasons.

Google Testing a Line Separating Organic and Ad

We don’t have a lot of information on this, but several people have spotted Google search results pages with something new on them: A small horizontal line.

Normally, that’s not enough to show up as a story in a marketing newsletter like this, but it’s here because of where that line is: Separating paid results from organic results.

In Google’s earlier days it had such a line, as well as more prominent ad labels. But the industry trend — for better or worse — has been to try as much as possible to hide those mandatory disclosures. It was just a few weeks ago that people noticed Google was testing mixing paid and organic on the page, making ads even harder to distinguish from unpaid.

But it does appear as if they’re testing that line again.

That said, Google’s search results page has become a bit of a dog’s breakfast over the past year. That page will show all sorts of stuff above and intermingled with the organic results you actually want: Ads, “People Also Ask” boxes, Twitter posts, Instagram embeds, a YouTube shelf, and more.

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Instagram Bug Drops Audio from Old Videos

A bug appears to be muting Instagram videos — but only, luckily, older ones.

It seems that videos posted from June 2013, when Instagram first added video, to October 2014 are now missing their audio. The audio isn’t working regardless of platform, whether the clip is played on desktop, iOS, or Android.

And because this seems to affect most — if not all — videos in that timeframe, this appears to be an issue on Instagram’s end rather than some sort of takedown issue regarding copyrighted audio.

The Verge

This is probably not an issue for most brands, since videos that old likely aren’t in active use anyway, but it also appears to be happening for embeds. So if your company has a web page — even a new one — which happens to reference an old post in an embed, that audio might be muted as well.

Meta says it’s aware of the bug and is working on it. When we checked this afternoon, some of the reported videos did have their sound back.

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