Subway wants to be a tech company. Intel wants to be a publisher. Brands want in on your quarter-life crisis. Beijing and Paris both want to be the next ad tech hotbed. Otherwise bright people want to be thought leaders. And the whole world wants to block ads. Call it the FOMO Factor. Or don’t. We just made that up. But in case you missed them, there were a few recurring themes in this week’s Digiday content:
Companies known for doing one thing often find themselves wanting to be known for something else. This week we saw two striking examples of the phenomenon at play. Senior sandwich reporter Yuyu Chen reported that Subway — home of the formerly $5 footlong — wants to become more like a tech company. The company is assembling a digital team of 150 full-time employees over the next two years, with some coming from consulting company Accenture. The sandwich chain will still use agencies to produce content, while the 150-person team will focus on technology development, loyalty programs, digital strategy and consumer behavior.
The digital push comes as Subway’s market share and sales are slipping: Year-over-year sales in the U.S. declined 3.4 percent to $11.5 billion last year, according to Technomic, faster than the industry. Is there an app for that?
If there is, don’t look to Intel to make it: The tech giant is making a pivot of its own. Digiday’s Lucia Moses reports that Intel has become the first brand (as in, non-media company) to begin publishing on Facebook’s Instant Articles, posting content from its digital tech-focused publication, iQ. “We believe we’re a publisher, based on engagement and feedback we get from articles we publish,” said Becky Brown, vp of digital marketing and media for Intel.
Our favorite tweet linking to one of our top stories this week — on the global state of ad blocking depicted in four charts — is this near-haiku:
young people show us the future
and the future is white space
— Stefan Constantine (@WhatTheBit) June 17, 2016
Sorry millennials, you can’t have anything without brands wanting in on the action. Not even a premature life-stage crisis. The spiritual cousin of “adulting,” the idea of a “quarter-life crisis” is not exactly new: Young people hit that awkward phase of no longer being children, yet not feeling like fully-functioning adults, and the lolz ensue.
But now brands have begun catching on: From Asos and Origins to LearnVest, marketers looking to reach the demographic are promising their goods and services — and directing millennials to other resources — to help them through this trying time in their lives. Digiday ennui reporter Tanya Dua reports that there have been more than 17,000 mentions of the phrase across social media between June 2015 and now, according to brand analytics firm Brandwatch. It is a recurring, mostly consumer-driven conversation especially on Twitter, where it has spiked in popularity in September 2015, November 2015, May 2016 and this month.
Eagle-eyed tech observer Yuyu Chen had a pair of stories this week about advertising technology bubbling up in unlikely places. First she told us that many Chinese companies are acquiring ad tech startups abroad – especially in the U.S. – to go beyond the Great Wall. Then, surprisingly, she pointed out that Paris is becoming quite the little hotbed of ad tech.
In recent weeks, Beijing-based Spearhead Integrated Marketing Communication Group acquired U.S. mobile ad exchange Smaato for $148 million last week, and Chinese mobile ad platform Mobvista purchased app monetization firm NativeX for around $25 million in February. During the same month, Chinese mobile game company Kunlun and security software provider Qihoo360 bid $1.2 billion in cash to buy browser maker Opera.
Meanwhile, a few Parisian ad tech firms have seen big success in the U.S. and many more are looking to America for growth, inspiration and, of course, money. “France is making a huge investment in taking its tech to the world,” said Ian Curd, market development director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa for data-management platform Lotame. “It’s angling to be a larger player in the big yet still emerging fin-tech space.”
Do you zig when the world zags? When others zag, do you zig? When others retreat, do you fight? When others take the high road, do you take the low road? When others bunt, do you swing from the heels? When others get down from the ledge, do you jump? When others play Russian roulette with one bullet, do you use five? Then you, too, might be a thinkfluencing thought leader. In which case, we’re honored you’re reading Digiday.