The Unfortunate Childhood Adventures of Programmatic Ads

PLUS: The agency trend erasing centuries of brand goodwill.

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In Today’s Issue:

🎮 Children exposed to Israeli war ads, likely due to unchecked programmatic campaign

🤖 Meta working on letting brands create personalized AI chatbots on Instagram.

📱 TikTok releases “Q5” Playbook to guide post-Christmas promotions.

🛍️ Google introduces "small business" tag in Search and Maps

🏢 WPP phases out historic agency brands, consolidating under “VML.”

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🎮 Programmatic Israeli Ad Campaign Shocks Parents

  • Ads spotted in games like Angry Birds, Solitaire, Subway Surfers.

  • Graphic content shocks parents; many delete the games.

  • Israeli Ministry confirms ads, “unsure” of their game placement.

Media are reporting this week on an unfortunate byproduct of the digital advertising world — misplaced programmatic ads.

Programmatic ads are often lower-quality placements, similar to the various ad platforms’ Audience Networks. They’re usually on web sites or in mobile apps using banner ads to make a little extra money.

Many of those ads end up in mobile games targeting kids.

Which is why the ads in question are of concern to parents. One shows Hamas militants, scared Israeli families, and blurred graphic scenes. The message on the ad: "WE WILL MAKE SURE THAT THOSE WHO HARM US PAY A HEAVY PRICE."

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that it was their government that placed the ad. They’ve spent at least $1.5 million on digital ad campaigns promoting Israel since the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas attacked the country three weeks ago.

But as for ads in children’s games? They said they had no idea how the ads got there.

We know, of course — it was almost certainly a broad programmatic buy.

For parents, a shock. For us marketers, a reminder to check your campaigns regularly. “Set it and forget it” is not a good strategy during times of conflict, or really, any time.

🤖 Google Unveils New Imagery Tools for Advertisers

  • Text-to-image tools launched for U.S. merchants and advertisers

  • Small Business Tag introduced for listings

  • Product Studio to help tweak images

Google has launched new AI tools for U.S. advertisers, hot on the heels of Amazon's similar move. These tools will be part of their Product Studio, and allows merchants to generate product images using simple text prompts.

For instance, a pet brand could type "a miniature schnauzer, happy, in a field of fish treats" and get a product image set in that scene.

This was first announced in May, and started testing with a handful of brands then.

It is being rolled out starting today for Merchant Center Next users in the U.S. and on the Google and YouTube app for Shopify.

Small Business Tag

Also, Google is also introducing a "small business" attribute that can appear in Google Maps and Search, making it easier for shoppers to spot local, smaller stores.

For those concerned about authenticity, Google has measures in place. An executive said only genuine small businesses would have access to the tag.

🤖 Meta Tests Custom AI Chatbot Creation

  • Meta announces celebrity-influenced AI chatbots.

  • Users to design chatbots with personal images and styles.

  • Feature discovered in Instagram's back-end code.

If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines watching AI chatbots get a lot of hype and wondered how your brand can get in on it all, there might be some good news ahead.

A reverse software engineer has found code in Instagram’s app suggesting that users will soon be able to craft their own chatbots. These personalized bots can be modeled after users' images and styles, giving them a unique voice.

Meta unveiled its celebrity-influenced AI chatbot models last month. These models can be accessed via popular platforms like Messenger, WhatsApp, and IG Direct.

But one thing to remember before you throw money at this — Mark Zuckerberg has an unusual fascination with virtual reality and bots. You might recall a few years back when Messenger Bots were going to be all the rage and be The Next Big Thing® and while some brands set them up and some even still have them, the focus at Meta swiftly moved on to the next shiny thing.

It’s not to say don’t try it out; just make sure your head stays in reality — and not the virtual kind.

🎄 TikTok Offers Tips for Q5 Marketing Boost

  • TikTok releases guide for post-Christmas promotions.

  • Two versions available: general and small business.

  • Guide includes usage notes, case studies, and creative pointers.

TikTok this week published a Marketing Playbook designed to help you through your Q5 campaigns.

Yes, Q5 — the period between Christmas and mid-January. It’s not a financial quarter, of course, but it is a kind of special period within an otherwise busy buying season.

TikTok does publish these guides fairly frequently — they delve into various strategies, showcasing usage notes, case study examples, creative pointers, that sort of thing.

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📉 WPP Retires Three Iconic Agency Brands

  • WPP to dissolve J. Walter Thompson, Young & Rubicam, and Wunderman.

  • Brands with over 300 years of history absorbed by VML.

  • Move seen as a financial efficiency strategy.

The advertising giant WPP is retiring three of its most prestigious and historic agency brands

Set to vanish: J. Walter Thompson, Young & Rubicam, and Wunderman.

If you’re in the ad business, you know these names. They have a combined legacy spanning over 300 years.

And their brands will all be absorbed into VML, a customer experience agency.

This will make VML as the world's largest marketing services firm, boasting 30,000 employees.

Avi Dan, writing in Forbes today, has this take:

WPP may think that clients don’t care about agency brands.

I believe that brands matter to clients. They care about the differentiation, and agencies with clear positioning and set of values that they can relate to or choose to align with. Now, maybe some clients don’t care about these storied brands, simply because they’ve had the soul ripped out of them since they were acquired.

But clients clearly care about agency brands. This is why they’re choosing Wieden+Kennedy, Gut Anomaly, Martin, Mischief and [others] over big legacy networks that have been ‘merged’ to the holding companies to within an inch of their lives…

I think WPP forget that it isn't just the names which smart clients love, it's the people…. The advertising business is just people and ideas. So, yes, the names aren't important, but when they start merging different cultures thinking it makes no difference, then they're very, very wrong.

Avi Dan, Forbes

Securing your traffic has become Essential

Recent studies show that over 27% of internet traffic is invalid, costing advertisers billions annually. And it's only getting worse!

CHEQ Essentials operates advanced algorithms and real-time monitoring capabilities to detect and block all fraudulent sources.

Implement CHEQ Essentials to protect your ads and websites, divert your resources towards human traffic and unlock your marketing activity's full potential.

Click here to enjoy an extended trial AND a 10% discount exclusively for our readers.

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