Wait, They're Actually Listening?!

One media company says it's eavesdropping on phones and selling ads from conversations.

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In Today's Issue

META ADS • Lead Gen, Carousels, and the Future of AI

Every Friday, we check in with our Meta Ads correspondent Andrew Foxwell. Andrew’s agency manages millions of dollars of Meta ad spend for his clients.

This week, Andrew and I discussed the upgrade of lead generation forms, multi-advertiser ads, changes to Instagram feed collection ads, Meta's AI efforts in 2024, and the challenges and control in Meta ads.

  • Meta is upgrading lead generation forms to compete with Google's lead generation business.

  • Multi-advertiser ads and increased inventory provide more opportunities for lead generation.

  • Changes to Instagram feed collection ads allow for more customization and product showcasing.

  • Meta is investing heavily in AI, which will have implications for creative testing and ad buying.

  • AI is simplifying and automating the ad campaign setup process, making it more efficient.

  • Despite advancements, manual adjustments and control are still necessary in Meta ads.

▶️ WATCH NOW

Be sure to check out Andrew’s Foxwell Founders community of digital ad buyers and his extensive training in the digital ad space.

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ADS • Wait, They Actually ARE Listening to Us?

I can’t get through a month without someone, once they learn what I do, pulling me aside, lowering their voice, and saying “Is it true? Does Facebook’s app listen in on our conversations so they could deliver ads about what we’re saying?”

And every time, I have to explain that no, they’re not. I even wrote a small Medium piece to point people to who ask me.

  1. For one thing, the amount of bandwidth you’d consume sending a 24-hour stream of good-enough quality audio to their services would exceed anyone’s plan.

  2. And also, they’ve said they’re not — for them to just straight-up lie about it would get them into very hot water with every trade, stock, privacy, and consumer regulator on the planet.

So no, Uncle Dave, Facebook is not listening to what you’re saying.

But apparently, another system is — and this system is owned by the American media giant Cox Media Group.

404Media reports that CMG is promoting a new ad platform, powered by the conversations people are saying near smart speakers, smart TVs, and other devices.

They say they’ve seen promotional materials for the system on CMG’s web site, part of which reads:

What would it mean for your business if you could target potential clients who are actively discussing their need for your services in their day-to-day conversations? No, it's not a Black Mirror episode—it's Voice Data, and CMG has the capabilities to use it to your business advantage.

Advertisers would buy a geographical radius of about 10 or 20 miles, then tell it what conversations it wants to listen to. Some examples provided by the company:

  • The car lease ends in a month—we need a plan.

  • A mini van would be perfect for us.

  • Do I see mold on the ceiling?

  • We need a better mortgage rate.

Then, people who’ve said that are placed in a targeting bucket, which can connect to all sorts of programmatic and other ad platforms, including YouTube and Google. A tracking pixel on the advertiser’s web site can monitor ROI.

The result? Unprecedented understanding of consumer behavior, so we can deliver personalized ads that make your target audience think: wow, they must be a mind reader.

Obviously, the company understands how sensitive this is, and has a section saying they believe it’s perfectly legal to eavesdrop on someone’s devices, because “consumers usually give consent when accepting terms and conditions of software updates or app downloads.”

The company did not respond to media requests for comment.

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INSTAGRAM • New “Add Yours Templates”


Brands on Instagram have a new engagement tool — something the app calls "Add Yours Templates." This lets users create their own interactive Story prompts, complete with GIFs, images, and text, which others can then add to and share.

This is similar to the existing "Add Yours" sticker, where users respond to prompts set by others, but the new templates let users take the reins and build their own meme-able content. Followers can't alter the core elements of the template, but they can add their own creative flair.

Instagram has been putting out a number of engagement-focused tools lately, like the "template browser" for Reels introduced in July.

The "Add Yours Templates" rollout is happening worldwide today.

TIKTOK • Put a Pink Bow On It

Always striving to bring you the latest marketing trends you can exploit for fun and profit, we present Pink Ribbons.

These are all the rage right now on TikTok where creators are tying them around, well, everything. Houseplants, pickles, orders from fast food restaurants. (No, I don’t understand either.)

@trovlov

It’s a coquette girly household 💝 #coquetteaesthetic #coquettecore #coquettegirl

This trend is apparently so big — I say “apparently” because it hasn’t shown up on my FYP — that the New York Times this morning devoted a full piece to the trend, which is says comes from the recent popularity of bows in fashion and pop culture.

One creator, a 22-year-old nanny, posted an 8-second video of three ice cubes tied with pink bows. 11 million views. And counting.

Like many of these other trends on TikTok, she says nobody really thinks bows are actually “in.” Rather, it’s more of “a large-scale inside joke.”

A joke, maybe, but some people are posting shots of themselves getting pink bows as real tattoos.

So, there you go — if you market to a younger demographic, maybe in and around the fashion and beauty space, go find a stapler or something and put a bow on it.

What a strange industry we’re in.

HUBSPOT • Updates Include Social Tagging

HubSpot announced a bunch of updates to its CRM platform. Here are some highlights:

  • There are new deal pipeline rules that prevent users from skipping stages and limiting the deal creation to one deal stage

  • You can now include up to 10 additional attendees when booking time on a scheduling page calendar

  • There is a new Product History card in the middle panel of the contact or company record so you don’t need to open a bunch of other tabs to see that data

  • There a new Call Analytics page so you can see that data without relying on custom reports or third-party tools

  • And you can now tag Instagram profiles in photos and Reels, and mention LinkedIn personal profiles, when scheduling posts in HubSpot.

TWITCH • Nudity is Permitted! (Naw j/k j/k lol)

Twitch, the livestreaming site popular among advertisers trying to reach gamers, this week announced changes to its policy on sexual content.

The platform said it would allow nudity as long as it was, you know, tasteful… artistic.

  • You could write things on boobs or butts.

  • You could draw nude people.

  • You could do strip teases on stream.

  • And you no longer need to warn people with a special stream label that you’ll be twerking, grinding, or pole dancing.

Yes, this is a gaming site, but it’s also popular among streamers who wear revealing clothes, flirt with viewers, and sort of play games… a little… here and there.

But then, this morning, it all went to hell.

Twitch posted on social media that it’s changed its mind and nudity is back on Santa’s naughty list, no matter how artistic it is.

The issue, it seems, is about AI-generated imagery, and that the text-to-image tools are so convincing these days, that anyone could generate what are essentially pornographic images, stream them, then claim it falls under the artistic nudity policy.

And with what might be the most awkward segue, I’ll take this moment to tell you about my Twitch channel, on which I stream gameplay. My account name is LowEffortDad.

I promise, no nudity.

Meanwhile, X is Falling Apart

Meanwhile, over at X, lots of people are sharing a screenshot of an ad running on that platform — it’s for an app which lets you upload a photo of any woman you know and it will digitally remove their clothes:

Earlier, X’s CEO assured advertisers their platform was perfectly brand-safe.

Uh-huh.

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AGENCIES • A GBP Bug Preventing Agency Invites

A strange bug is happening with Google Business Profiles this week — specifically, the agency dashboard.

The bug is that owners and managers cannot accept new invites. This is said to have started a couple of days ago, and Google is working on it but has no ETA for it to be fixed.

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