Financial Implications Of COVID-19 For Agencies And Partnerships

Though advertisers’ plans during coronavirus are continually evolving, two things remain constant: budgets are being readjusted and partnerships are being tested. 

While some are equipped to conquer the financial hurdles posed by COVID-19, others have paused ad spend indefinitely. We spoke with Ayzenberg chief financial officer Edgar Davtyan to understand how agencies and brands should navigate the financial landscape from now until the end of the year, how companies are adjusting budgets and what the current partnership climate looks like.

What does the current climate for partnerships look like?

I see partnerships as expanded pools of resources that you tap into all at once. With teleworking and a practically unlimited amount of people around the globe, the climate for partnerships becomes more fertile simply because partnerships now make more sense than ever. The challenges posed by novel coronavirus will be much better overcome with not one set of expertise, but a coalition of expertise together—this is what partnerships are all about.

Businesses need to figure out how to fuse pre-COVID-19 content that’s still relevant with something that’s a bit more reflective of the time via the social- and digital-driven muscles they’ve been flexing. In other words, work that has pre-COVID-19 content value but with the content distribution we’re seeing now. I expect there will be an uptick in partnerships after coronavirus because they will provide a higher output for the distribution of said content.

To me, partnerships don’t only mean two companies coming together. We also need to recognize the added need for agencies to better partner with three of their most important prongs—our own employees, our own clients and our own markets.

What partnerships do we need to forge in order to be better employers? Then what do you do to attract a better workforce? For our clients, that means better talent, better work and better results. And lastly, what does it mean for the market? As long as you remain agile, it means you are a better agency for your people and your clients. And that makes you a market innovator.

How do you think the pandemic is affecting brand and client partnerships?

 The has always focused on brands, consumers and employees who understand the value of a good idea. Before the current crisis, we were also fortunate to have already pursued technology and security systems that would strengthen working from home. Teleworking and the gig economy have been the silver lining for advertising professionals. When it’s all said and done, we’ll have plenty of solid data that will make it so that remote collaboration and the necessary tools are embraced much faster.

One of the advantages that agencies have is the knowledge and experience of the market. Our media business, for example, is really strong in user acquisition campaigns. When you’re an agency with a very specific remit, you understand the market. This allows us to provide valuable insight and leadership to a lot of the brands who are navigating the crisis purely from their vernacular, which is usually a very narrow vernacular.

People come to us with problems and we solve those problems. When you have that kind of relationship with a brand, you’re the ‘first call,’ no matter what. The role of any client-agency partnership is a bit more elevated during crises because we’re willing to venture into and navigate this unknown world together. If we were a level-two in terms of trust before the pandemic, where we have to be now is level-ten.

How are budgets being adjusted?

When faced with adversity and the unknown, typically the first thing that gets cut is advertising budget. However, I wouldn’t describe the budgets as “being cut,” but more as “being shifted” to different mediums.

A lot of live-action video content in our industry is being revisited and right now we are solving how to produce video in a socially-distanced environment. While we don’t know exactly what new form that production process will become, we do see that business coming back in Q4. The technology to achieve great cinematic results will be the same but with the added opportunity for our creators and producers to reinvent the process.

In response to increased viewership, we need to shift how we are going to set the budgets—not cut them. Even though that’s what it may seem like at first. Budget is not going away, it just needs to be molded into something else. For example, all of a sudden content is being produced via a combination of user-generated content (UGC) and creators, which is really relevant.

Music festivals and major events are being postponed or canceled. But are they really being canceled or are they being reformatted to a different medium? I think the latter is more true than being canceled. I believe that savvy marketers and agencies are going to quickly translate what may seem like budget cuts to budget shifts to produce content that’s more relevant in a post-COVID-19 state. That produces another big financial challenge for our business—how to price these offerings so that money is not devalued, but to get a better return for your dollar.

Some brands are sending products to influencers for them to shoot at home. Do you think marketers will continue to utilize these cost-effective processes after coronavirus?

We’re still experimenting but we know that ‘bite-size’ content is easy to consume. There will still be room, as there has always been, for high-end finished, marquee-style video content. For example, a launch trailer for an amazing game. I don’t think television or big video content is going away. But what is being questioned right now is, where does this content live and what will be the most effective measurement tool for it.

I believe that a lot of the real-time content that is being produced remotely will allow marketers to analyze their methods in a new way. They can look back on their spend and sales during this heightened crisis and go, well, what is really working? Today’s specifically-coronavirus content serves a different purpose, but we’ll need a little bit more time to determine whether or not this new purpose is more effective.

Per-unit price on the content being produced now is lower than a highly produced video piece; for that marquee content price, you can produce 10 pieces of content that incorporate UGC or influencers. As a result, the lift you’re going to get as a brand, as measured by your sales and your KPIs, is perhaps going to exceed the lift that you had with one high-production piece. That’s certainly my hope.

What are your thoughts on brands who just simply can’t pay agencies right now or must pause their account?

The biggest misconception here is that budgets will be thrown out the window. Don’t get me wrong, there are brands cutting spending, and that is the unfortunate reality of where any business is. But oftentimes the savvier marketers are the ones that are going to ask themselves the question of how to shift the dollars versus cut the dollars.

In between now and the end of the pandemic, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The worst thing anyone can do is be stagnant, especially when the whole world is changing. So if I had one piece of advice to those who are being impacted by the financial implications of COVID-19, as we all are, it’s to be flexible and more open to what’s out there. When you’re flexible, you’re going to find that things are not being dried up… they’re just taking a different shape.

So it’s not doom and gloom. I’m an optimist. I believe that in about two or three months’ time, we will see some signs of our new normalcy. From there, it’s really a long recovery period to where we think the new norm is going to be awesome.

For brands/agencies, what will be the most challenging part about navigating the financial landscape from now until the end of the year?

The biggest challenge that I see is, how do you go from recruiting a lot of really talented people remotely to doing really kick-ass work while being remote? What this means for agencies of our size is that we can be even more agile, more nimble and more strategic in talent recruitment because all of sudden the entire globe just became our talent pool.

By no means does this imply that staffers are going away or will become irrelevant. At Ayzenberg, our full-time staff form the core of our operation. That won’t change post-COVID.

What I anticipate evolving is the way in which we expand these flex models and how we exercise some of the same principles that we used to recruit this talent, with our existing staff.

For example, how do you navigate existing staff to make them flexible in the way they work, interact and create? We’re following the state’s steps to transfer people back to campus, and this becomes a finance discussion because these kinds of arrangements have different financial implications.

With freelancers, you pay them differently and you’re able to attract them differently, allowing you to diversify certain talent effectively because you don’t have to keep them on these accounts 24/7 like you’d need to on a retainer account.

I believe that the agencies who actually figure out how to adjust to this flex pool model for the betterment of the work for their brands are going to be the ones with a bit of an edge. And I’m certainly committed to figuring out what that looks like at Ayzenberg.

What has surprised you most about your team’s response to COVID-19?

I’ve been with the throughout several economic slowdowns, all of which taught us valuable lessons and allowed us to go from a small creative boutique to a communication supergroup. During the pandemic, our leadership team has positioned itself for deconstruction and rebuilding to come out of this smarter and stronger.

I was also very inspired by everyone’s ability and willingness to respond quickly, from our interns to our staff; everyone came together, and after seven weeks, we’ve acclimated to our new normal. The pandemic has taught us that we’re a closer-knit organization than we thought we were. It’s a good feeling to know that the organization you’re driving can swivel on a moment’s notice.

The analogy that I usually use is a super sports team where every unit needs to fire off at its optimal time for the whole thing to work; if one thing doesn’t work, you won’t have optimum performance. But when everything clicks at the same time and that engine revs, it’s all systems go. That’s what happened in our situation. I want to use that analogy to rally agencies and brands to look for that in their current and future partnerships. Because ultimately, partnerships are defined by these moments of crisis.

(Editor’s note: AList is published by

84% Of Consumers Will Buy From A Brand They Follow On Social Media

Eighty-nine percent of consumers say they will buy from a brand they follow on social media and 84 percent will choose that brand over a competitor, according to the 2020 Sprout Social Index: Above and Beyond, based on surveys fielded to social marketers and consumers between February 28 and March 4.

Though Social Index conducted its research before the pandemic, its main finding still holds true: social media drives bottom-line growth. Retailers and restaurants remain shuttered as a result of the virus, leaving consumers no choice but to shop brands online and through their social media channels.


Social media directly impacts consumer purchase behavior as 75 percent of respondents say they will increase their spending on a brand they follow on social media, a figure that has seen 12 percent year over year growth.

Fifty percent of consumers have increased their social media usage in the last six months alone. With this in mind, marketers should carefully consider the type of content they deliver, as 45 percent of consumers say they will unfollow brands that publish irrelevant content on social media.

As for when users are most likely to be on social media: half (50 percent) say during a major personal milestone, followed by 45 percent during a sporting event, 42 percent during a natural disaster and 42 percent during the holiday.

Over half (54 percent) of consumers welcome brand posts during sporting events whereas only 14 percent are interested in the same during a natural disaster.

When asked what makes a brand’s social presence superior, consumers rank engagement with their audience (61 percent) as the top factor, followed by transparency (45 percent) and strong customer service (44 percent).

Consumers also value swift communication from brands as 40 percent of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media. A larger amount of consumers (79 percent) expect a response in the first 24 hours.

Younger consumers gravitate toward social platforms focused on photos and videos, like YouTube and Instagram. When asked which platforms they plan to use more of, 73 percent of GenZ respondents said Instagram followed, by 65 percent who chose YouTube. Among millennials, 68 percent say they plan to use Facebook more in the coming year.

When asked how they find new social media accounts to like and follow, 45 percent say by suggestions in their feed or discovery tools and 40 percent say recommendations from family/friends.

Social Marketers

While social media is a valuable growth engine for brands, Sprout Social’s data indicates marketers will struggle to measure the return on investment (ROI) as respondents ranked ROI and supporting overall business goals among their top three challenges. 

Over half (56 percent) of respondents say they use social data to better understand their target audience, 23 percent say they use the data to measure ROI and 16 percent use it for competitive insights. The takeaway here: social data has not reached its full potential.

Additionally, for social marketers, brand awareness is the primary goal for social media (69 percent), followed by increasing web traffic  (52 percent) and growing their audience (46 percent).

Looking ahead, consumers want marketers to use more stories (43 percent) and live video (40 percent). Marketers’ responses align with these preferences as 56 percent say they plan on trying live video and 48 percent say they plan on trying stories.

Lucid distributed the Sprout Social survey to 1,003 social marketers and 1,028 consumers.

What We’re Reading–Week Of May 4th

We’re searching for the most pressing marketing insights this week. Updated daily.

Facebook Will Reopen Offices In July, But Says It Will Let Employees Continue To Work Remotely For The Rest Of The Year

Business Insider

A spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider that Facebook will reopen its offices on July 6, allowing employees who want to continue teleworking to do so until the end of 2020. Facebook is also canceling all in-person events of over 50 people until June 2021.

Why it matters: Facebook’s digital infrastructure has allowed it to smoothly continue functioning during the crisis.

Will Big Brands Be Punished For Taking Small Business Aid?


Thanks to the $2 trillion rescue package, scores of very large companies were able to obtain federal assistance as “small” businesses. Shake Shack returned the $10 million it received.

Why it matters: News of the small-business aid money going to big brands was so widespread that some believe short-term backlash is unavoidable. President and chief strategist of Retail Voodoo David Lemley believes brands won’t experience reputation damage for lockdown has afforded brands a “grace period,” that, when the nation reopens, will make it so people are “so enamored by the possibility of going out and enjoying a meal somewhere that we will flock to the [restaurants we like]—not because they were good citizens, but because they deliver on the promise of a dining experience.”

Travel Brands Look To Local And Regional Destinations With A Glimmer Of Hope


In response to COVID’s impact on travel, brands like Wyndham, Hilton and Disney Resorts are retooling their approach to focus more on regional and local travel experiences. For example, Wyndham expects drive-to travel to account for 90 percent of its hotel occupancy for the rest of the year, up from 70 percent pre-pandemic. Disney expects drive-to-business to also ramp up first at its park in Anaheim, California.

Why it matters: The hotel business won’t fully rebound until people are comfortable flying again.

Sotheby’s Teams With Google For Virtual Experience Charity Auction


Sotheby’s and Google are hosting a virtual charity auction on Google Meets from now until May 8. Winning bidders can experience a virtual coffee date with Hillary Clinton, a private office tour and tips with Sir Paul Smith, a song recording session with Sting, a personalized makeup consultation with Charlotte Tilbury or an acting lesson with Sir Patrick Stewart. Winning bidders can also share their experience with front-line workers and others who have been impacted by the pandemic. All proceeds will benefit the International Rescue Committee’s efforts against COVID-19.

Why it matters: As per Javier Soltero, G Suite vice president and general manager for Google: “With COVID-19 impacting the way we live, work, learn and socialize, the need for secure video meetings to foster human connection has never been greater.”

What Does The Marketing Funnel Look Like Post-Pandemic?

Marketing Dive

People are consuming more content, cutting their spending, looking for brands to take public stances and said they retract their brand loyalty faster than they did three years ago.

Why it matters: Brands looking to survive post-pandemic must implement marketing strategies that span every relevant channel, as well as double down on showcasing their true value proposition and how they help their communities.

Why H&R Block Is Thinking And Acting Like A News Outlet


H&R Block CMO Vinoo Vijay says that in response to COVID, his team built new webpages geared toward keeping consumers and small businesses informed about how the pandemic might alter how they file taxes. They also launched an online calculator that gives estimates of how much people could expect to get from stimulus paychecks.

Why it matters: At a time when people are turning to the web for news and entertainment, brands are making an effort to act more like publishers to reach more people.

Wendy’s Defied The Odds And Successfully Launched Breakfast During The Coronavirus Pandemic, Creating A Massive New Problem For Fast-Food Rivals Like McDonald’s And Taco Bell

Business Insider

Though Wendy’s launched breakfast in the first week of March, its breakfast sales now account for eight percent of its business. 

Why it matters: According to executives at Taco Bell, Tim Hortons and McDonald’s, breakfast sales have been hit hard by the pandemic. As they rebuild their breakfast business, they’ll have to compete with Wendy’s, whose breakfast helped boost same-store sales to 16 percent the week it launched.

How Marketing Can Be More Effective With A Fulfilling Customer Experience

Ad Age

F5’s Mika Yamamoto explains that a Customer Effort Score, the amount of effort a customer exerts to fulfill a request, for example, is a point-in-time score that’s an easy way to get more engagement and feedback.

Why it matters: Using a Customer Effort Score allows you to get a quick understanding of how your customers feel during moments that matter.

Adweek Together: Continuing Creative Operations


LA-based creative agency Imaginary Forces has continued operations amid coronavirus 100 percent with graphic and animated expressions.

Why it matters: Agencies are having to refocus how they work.

KFC Hosts Virtual Mother’s Day Dinners On Facebook Messenger

Mobile Marketer

KFC created a virtual Mother’s Day experience for Facebook Messenger that lets users send loved ones a personalized invitation to virtually share a meal together. Users can decorate their video calls with digital stickers and effects. Up to eight people can join the call. KFC is also offering free delivery on orders of more than $20 through its website and Grubhub.

Why it matters: Brands are utilizing several mobile and digital features to help families connect online as social distancing orders remain in effect.

Pizza And The Power Of Influence: Papa Murphy’s CMO Talks Brand Purpose And Community Support


Papa Murphy’s is donating a dollar from each Mini Murph pizza-making kit purchased to No Kid Hungry to help kids affected by COVID-19 school closures. Papa Murphy’s owners are also donating pizzas directly to the frontline workers at hospitals and the Boys Club and the Girls Club.

Why it matters: As per Papa Murphy’s CMO Kim McBee, “There’s never a better time to show folks what a brand is all about than in a time of crisis, and we have the ability in terms of all of our efforts and all of our locations can really galvanize to help people at a national level when these kinds of things happen.”

Opinion: What Happens To The Human Experience When Live Events Disappear

Ad Age

Social distancing has altered essential parts of people’s lives and virtual comfort isn’t the same as what’s offered in person.

Why it matters: “For each day that passes without face-to-face engagement, the value of the live experience rises—humanity demands that events come back strong.”

SoundCloud On Twitch To Debut May 6


On May 6, SoundCloud will debut a weekly one-hour music show on Twitch hosted by Soulection founder Joe Kay. Kay and special guests will explore undiscovered tracks on SoundCloud. Additional series will be introduced in the coming weeks.

Why it matters: In late March, SoundCloud announced it was partnering with Twitch to help struggling musicians earn money via an affiliate program on their Twitch streams.   

Gaming Live Streaming Activity Balloons Amid Pandemic

Game live streaming activity has ballooned during the pandemic: on average, weekly viewers of live streams have increased by 70 percent year over year and watch time has increased by 35 percent year over year. That’s according to a report from Torque Esports, “Stream Hatchet Q1,” which explores COVID’s impact on streaming audiences including what gaming entertainment people are watching and how.

Gaming remains one of the world’s biggest entertainment platforms, with 4.9 billion hours of live-streamed content watched during Q1 2020, a 35 percent increase compared to 2019, according to the report.

As the coronavirus lockdown continues, the average viewers watching video game live streams have increased more than 100 percent in April.

Twitch still holds a majority of gaming platform market share; 65 percent of all gaming content is watched on Twitch, down from 76 percent in Q1 2019. This year’s viewers have watched over 15 percent more hours on Twitch.

YouTube Gaming has seen steady year over year growth, seizing 22 percent of the live stream market in Q1, up two percent year over year. Viewers watched 51 percent more gaming live streams on YouTube Gaming year over year.

Facebook has displayed the fastest growth, taking 11 percent of the gaming platform market share in Q1, up from no share in Q1 2019. Viewers watched a whopping 900 percent more gaming live streams on Facebook in Q1 2020.

In April, Facebook announced the early launch of its dedicated Android gaming app called Facebook Gaming, which features a “Go Live” feature that enables users to share gaming streams directly to their Facebook page. Facebook reportedly has 700 million monthly users engaging with gaming content.

Mixer’s numbers, however, have been dwindling, even despite Twitch mega-streamer Ninja joining the platform in October 2019. Mixer viewers watched eight percent less gaming streams in Q1.

In the first week of April, Riot Games released the closed beta of Valorant. Breaking live streaming records, the game amassed more than 323 million hours watched during its first four weeks of video game streaming—twice as many as Apex Legends, the second-largest launch in video game streaming. In its second week of streaming alone, Valorant generated 131 million hours watched, one million more hours watched than all the other top five games combined in their second week.

Esports racing content has also seen a massive spike in popularity during COVID, growing by nearly 1,000 percent in Q1. Audiences of racing games like iRacing and Formula 1 have increased from 700,000 to over 6.8 million in April year over year.“Do we expect some of these numbers to level off in the long run? Yes, but the interesting thing is that virtual sports content will be something that leagues will continue to investigate . . . We know this by the level of inquiry we’re receiving from brands, companies, publishers, and leagues,” said Stream Hatchet co-founder and CEO, Eduard Montserrat.

Facebook Announces First 20 Members Of New Oversight Board

This week in leadership updates, Facebook announces the first 20 members of its Oversight Board, Backcountry hires Sarah Crockett as chief marketing officer and Fox Bet brings on Andrew Schneider as chief marketing officer.

Facebook Names Co-Chairs And Members Of Its Oversight Board

Today Facebook introduced the first members of its Oversight Board, an independent body that will decide what should and shouldn’t be allowed on Facebook’s platforms. Facebook chose four co-chairs, who have selected 16 members, announced today. The board will hire an additional 20 members, for a total of 40 members on the board

According to the New York Post, board co-chairs include former US federal Circuit Judge Michael McConnell, constitutional law expert Jamal Greene, Colombian attorney Catalina Botero-Marino and former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Members include former European Court of Human Rights judge András Sajó, Yemeni activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman and former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger.

Backcountry Names Sarah Crockett As Chief Marketing Officer

Burton CMO Sarah Crockett is leaving the company after two years to become Backcountry’s CMO, according to Shop Eat Surf

In her new role, Crockett will oversee Backcountry and its portfolio of brands including Competitive Cyclist, and Cheap & Steep.

Crockett held previous roles at REI, Vans and Lucky Brand.

Fox Bet Hires Andrew Schneider As CMO

Fox Bet, the online sports betting product from Stars Group and Fox Corp, has named Andrew Schneider as chief marketing officer, according to Variety. Schneider was previously senior VP, marketing, for Disney Streaming Services, where he contributed to the launches of Disney+ and ESPN+. In his new role, Schneider will report to Fox Bet chief executive officer Robin Chhabra.

Pinterest Launches App On Shopify To Help Increase Traffic To Retailers

This week in social media news, Pinterest launches an app on Shopify to help increase traffic to retailers, Tinder says it will soon launch a video feature, Facebook is testing an app called Discover to increase internet access for people worldwide and YouTube announces plans to live stream a virtual graduation ceremony with the Obamas.

Pinterest Launches Shopify App To Increase Traffic To Retailers

Pinterest announced today it’s launching the Pinterest app on Shopify, which gives merchants a fast way to upload catalogs to Pinterest and convert their products into shoppable Product Pins.

Why it matters: Earlier this week Pinterest reported increased usage during the pandemic, making it an opportune moment for retailers to get their products in front of Pinners. In addition, Pinterest says the number of users who have engaged with shoppable Product Pins has increased 44 percent year over year.

The details: The app links an individual store to Pinterest and offers merchants a variety of shopping features including tag installation, catalog ingestion, automatic daily updating of products and ads buying interface. The app will make it so Pinners can discover, save and buy directly from a retailer’s website as upon installation, the app lets the business add a tag on their website. A shop tab will also appear on the profiles of businesses that sign-up.

Shopify merchants in the US and Canada can install the tag starting today. In the coming weeks, Pinterest will roll out the app in countries where Pinterest ads are available including Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Facebook Tests Discover App To Increase Internet Accessibility

Facebook said it’s testing a mobile web and Android app in Peru called Discover, which provides people with limited low-bandwidth internet browsing using a daily balance of free data from participating mobile operators.

Why it matters: Backed by Facebook Connectivity, Discover builds on Facebook’s efforts with Free Basics, which enables people to access basic services without data charges, available in 55 countries. Facebook’s goal with Discover, it notes, is to increase access to health information during the crisis for users around the world.

The details: The way Discovery works is Facebook routes web traffic through the app’s proxy and temporarily decrypts it to remove high-bandwidth content that’s not supported. Discover doesn’t store people’s browsing history, according to Facebook. A Facebook account isn’t required to use Discover, which can be downloaded on or the Google Play Store. Facebook plans to roll out additional Discover trials in Thailand, the Philippines and Iraq in the coming weeks.

Tinder Will Add Video Dating In Q2

As part of its Q1 2020 earning report, Match said Tinder will introduce a video dating feature in Q2 after testing the waters with video in its Plenty of Fish app.

Why it matters: Tinder competitor Bumble has offered video for a year, and soon Facebook will launch virtual dating via Messenger for Facebook Dating users. Yet Match has been reluctant to add video to its apps, saying that video features had been tried over the years but never saw much adoption. As people are stuck at home, Match admits “users are being forced to use it.”

The details: The report shows Tinder only added 100,000 new subscribers by the end of Q1, reaching 6 million subscribers total. Though Tinder’s average revenue per user (ARPU) grew just two percent, its direct revenue grew by 31 percent year over year.

Pinterest Reports 32 Million More Users In Q1

Pinterest’s Q1 2020 report shows that the platform’s increased usage during lockdown has led to an added 32 million users since Q4, bringing its total monthly active users (MAU) to 367 million.

Why it matters: Pinterest’s MAU saw a 9.55 percent quarter-on-quarter growth rate, outpacing the same figure at Twitter (9.21 percent), Snapchat (5 percent), Facebook (4.20 percent) and LinkedIn (2.22 percent).

The details: Pinterest reports a 35 percent year over year increase in revenue, at $272 million. Like LinkedIn and Twitter, however, Pinterest says it saw a sharp drop in March due to changes in advertiser behavior. Pinterest notes that video, conversion optimization and shopping ad products drove its ad revenue growth for the quarter. Searches for how to educate and entertain kids, how to clean during quarantine, what food to put in the pantry and how to make masks, have increased significantly, says Pinterest.

YouTube Will Host Virtual Graduation Ceremony Featuring The Obamas

YouTube announced it’s hosting a virtual commencement live stream, “Dear Class of 2020,” premiering on its YouTube Originals channel on June 6.

Why it matters: The news comes after Facebook announced its plan to broadcast a virtual graduation, with a commencement address from Oprah Winfrey. By the looks of YouTube’s celebrity lineup, it looks as though the video platform is trying to one-up Facebook.

The details: YouTube’s virtual graduation event will feature commencement speakers President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, BTS, Lady Gaga, Secretary Robert M. Gates, Sundar Pichai, Condoleezza Rice and Malala Yousafzai. Kerry Washington, Alicia Keys and Zendaya are among the celebrities that will make special appearances.

YouTube’s New Option Would Let Publishers Sell Subscriptions Through Their Channels

YouTube is working on a tool for news publishers that lets them sell subscriptions to their owned and operated digital properties through their YouTube channels, as reported by Digiday.

Why it matters: While publishers receive a share of revenue from ads sold against their YouTube videos, news publishers have a more difficult time attracting ad spend given advertisers don’t want their ads appearing next to controversial topics. Publishers see this new subscription sales tool as having some potential and expect YouTube will share their subscriber names and emails with them.

The details: According to Digiday, the subscription sales tool would resemble YouTube’s channel memberships tool which it introduced in 2018. Using the new tool, people would pay for a subscription to access content that’s otherwise behind a paywall on a given publisher’s site or app. YouTube says it will begin testing the tool by the end of 2020.

Twitter Tests A Prompt That Gives Users Option To Revise Harmful Replies

Twitter is running a “limited experiment” on iOS that lets users self-edit their tweets before publishing.

Why it matters: The feature in testing is the latest effort from Twitter to curb harassment on the platform. In 2019, Instagram launched a similar test that would nudge users with a warning before posting potentially offensive comments; in December, Instagram said the results had been promising.

The details: Twitter’s anti-harassment feature would show a prompt that gives users the option to edit a reply before publishing it if it includes harmful language.

Twitter Reaches 166 Million Daily Active Users In Q1

Twitter’s Q1 earnings report revealed its revenue grew three percent year over year to $808 million and its monetizable daily active users (mDAU) saw 24 percent year-over-year growth.

Why it matters: As the pandemic became global, Twitter saw a dramatic increase in mDAU in March, but a 27 percent decline year-over-year in total ad revenue.

The details: Twitter’s mDAU grew from 152 million in Q4 2019 to 166 million in Q1 2020. Its average international mDAU reached 133 million compared to 121 million in the previous quarter. Twitter says its usage stabilized in late March. Twitter generated $682 million in ad revenue, with its total ad engagements increasing 25 percent. For the time being, Twitter’s goal is to help marketers reach their target audiences by improving the effectiveness of its ad offerings.

LinkedIn Launches New Job Interview Features Early

LinkedIn is testing a new video introduction feature and introducing an artificial intelligence-backed instant feedback tool that analyzes interviewees’ speech content and patterns.

Why it matters: LinkedIn acknowledges that the impact of novel coronavirus has made job searching now especially stressful. Its two new tools can help candidates stand out at a time when in-person interviews aren’t viable.

The details: With LinkedIn’s video introduction tool, hiring managers can request an introduction as part of the interview process; users can respond by either video or a written copy. In addition, LinkedIn’s AI feedback feature, part of its interview preparation tools, people can practice their answers to common interview questions and receive feedback on pacing, how many times they use filler words and sensitive phrases to avoid.

TikTok Is Testing New Call-To-Action Ads For Influencer Videos

TikTok is experimenting with a new ad format that links advertisers to its popular influencers to let those influencers include a call-to-action (CTA) button in their videos, according to Digiday.

Why it matters: The new ads build on TikTok’s efforts to grow its ad offerings and Creator Marketplace, which it launched in late 2019 to connect advertisers with publishers and creators. Additionally, the influencer CTA ads would capture some of the revenue advertisers pay for sponsored influencer posts.

The details: TikTok has rolled out the creator CTA ads to a small group of advertisers and agencies. Though the terms for revenue-sharing haven’t been set, TikTok has been discussing a 20/80 split in TikTok’s favor.

Editor’s Note: Check back daily. We’ll be updating this article through May 8, 2020.

Social Distancing Campaign Picks: Week Of May 4

Happy week six of shelter in place, people! I’m not sure about you, but I’m finding an interesting dichotomy at play right now between my newly discovered appreciation of the simple life vs. a strong pull to focus this time on pushing boundaries to create meaningful work that gives me purpose and connects me to the larger world. Maybe that’s the tension and balance we all need to work through in establishing our own “new normal.” Trust me, I’m well into that quest and I truly appreciate getting to see the creative produced during the pandemic to make it work.  

With that in mind, I’m sharing a few inspiring things that have been put out into the world that show that innovative thinking is alive and well during this unique time. 

Travis Scott Astronomical Concert – Fortnite

Travis Scott’s virtual “Astronomical” mini-concert tour inside of Fortnite drew in 12.3 million virtual attendees and amassed an additional 3 million steaming views across Twitch and YouTube. Scott hosted five concerts over the course of three days, during which time he premiered a new song. Watching him come alive as a 40-foot iconic god and taking us all on a surreal journey through the virtual landscapes was a welcome reward for being stuck at home, and also the promise of many exciting things to come in the virtual world.

Why it matters: It may sound gimmicky to hold a music performance inside a video game, but Travis’s virtual concert was more of an era-defining cultural experience. Particularly impressive was the number of views the concert received—over 10X what the largest physical stadiums could accommodate. Advertisers looking to engage consumers virtually should look to the concert as an example for it tied in a limited-time set of challenges for players to complete, making the concert as close to experiential, if not more, than an in-person concert. 

The details: What’s truly amazing is that the Epic Games team pulled off the virtual concert while working from home! The concert was a perfect combination of all the things we long for at a Coachella or Burning Man festival, a well-balanced mix of art, music and interactivity. To mimic the look and feel of a physical event, Epic Games launched a microsite that listed Travis’ virtual tour dates, noting that, “doors open 30 minutes before the show.”

Rethink –  Kraft Peanut Butter

Canada Kraft Peanut Butter’s “Stick Together” campaign is giving small businesses unused ad space to let people know they’re still open and to please come by and help support their community.

Why it matters:  This example speaks to how we as creatives can take a more holistic view of our role in the pandemic and strive to bring our clients an idea that lifts everyone. Brand building matters and it’s usually the hardest thing to get clients to invest in. Unless we’re talking about companies like Nike, most ad spend is geared towards proving a clear return on investment (ROI) and for increasing sales of a product. I’m not disparaging that, but when I see moves like Kraft’s, it reminds me of why I love what we do. We can make a difference. It just takes a bold move, a fearless client and a big idea, executed flawlessly. And the rewards? Kraft Peanut Butter gets a huge lift in brand goodwill, helps their local communities from the ground up and is able to say, through action, that they care.  I’d say that moves the needle in a big way. Anyone craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

The details: Canadian agency Rethink was behind the campaign, the genesis of which apparently came from the fact that Kraft Peanut Butter was flying off the shelves due to its extremely long shelf life. So what do you do when your brand is inadvertently benefiting from a catastrophe? You look around and see how you can help others. The campaign first rolled out on Kraft Peanut Butter’s Instagram page and expanded out through their surplus of digital pre-roll.  As it started to catch on, they rolled it out wider to broadcast spots across more markets: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg. 

Lowe’s – What Home Can Become

Lowe’s created a 30-second television spot that captures the return to simplicity that most of us are experiencing during the lockdown, with living rooms becoming classrooms, dining rooms becoming offices, and the like. The sentiment is spot on and the execution pulls forward another one of my favorite themes right now; creativity is what connects us all and will help us pull through this difficult time. As the spot builds to its close, Lowe’s sticks the landing with the final tag, “What Home Can Become.” The spot mirrors Lowe’s new “Home Becomes” YouTube makeover series, in which each episode features a professional transforming different areas of the house to show how people can make their spaces more suitable for life during lockdown.

Why it matters: Many people are searching for the silver lining amid COVID-19. The Lowe’s spot is a powerful example of how a simple cause-related message delivered in a positive spirit can show consumers that you understand what they’re going through. At the core, this spot is about ingenuity and transformation and a reminder that a little creativity can help define and elevate what our new normal can be. You don’t even need to use a plinky piano underscore.

The details: Like the Ikea spot I shared last week, this film is clearly of its time. My guess is that each of the vignettes was filmed by a member of their family and that it was all done within the shelter-in-place guidelines. A strong messaging run underscores the transformations their imaginations have unlocked and glues these disparate moments together into something much stronger than the sum of its parts. 

(Editor’s note: AList is published by

The Spirit Of The Olympics And Technology With Lauren Sallata At Panasonic

During this 206th episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Lauren Sallata, chief marketing officer at Panasonic Corporation of North America.


Today we talk about Panasonic’s new campaign launching for the 2020 Olympics, what that partnership means, and how they’re going to leverage it both for the marketplace effects as well as with their employees. The interview occurred before the one-year postponement of the 2020 Olympics. We also talk about Sallata’s career and her life outside of work in service and foundation work.

Sallata begins by discussing her board service. As we learn about the path her career has taken, Sallata reminds us to “Learn to walk in your customer’s shoes.” She updates our view of Panasonic as a brand and emphasizes Panasonic’s global position. She says, “The red thread that runs through all of our solutions is sustainability and contribution to society.” Then we learn about Panasonic’s long-term commitment to the Olympic Games. Panasonic’s ambitious new ad campaign, #whatmovesus, tells us a lot about where the brand is today and where it plans to be going forward. Sallata also shares some insight into Panasonic’s partnership with Harvard Business Review. This conversation shows us how a brand with a long legacy can continue to be innovative and forward-thinking.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Lauren discusses how she thinks about service outside of work. 01:28
  • Lauren shares details about where she has been in her career. 03:10
  • How Panasonic is different in North America vs. the rest of the world. 05:37
  • Panasonic’s long commitment to the Olympics. 08:14
  • Panasonic’s plans for their 2020 Olympic partnership, #whatmovesus. 09:43
  • How employees are getting engaged through #whatmovesus. 13:23
  • Lauren describes other objectives for the #whatmovesus campaign. 15:16
  • Initial results from Panasonic’s partnership with Harvard Business Review. 16:45
  • Is there an experience in her past that defines who she is today? 18:50
  • What is the advice Lauren would give to her younger self? 20:28
  • Are there any brands, companies, or causes that Lauren follows that she thinks other people should take notice of? 23:12
  • What are the top opportunities or threats facing marketers today? 24:06

Resources Mentioned:

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

Global Citizen Turned Its Broadcast And Digital Musical Special Into A Movement During COVID-19

On April 18, Global Citizen pulled off what seemed like the impossible amid coronavirus: It broadcasted an eight-hour cross-platform musical special in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Lady Gaga across 60 networks and nine digital platforms worldwide in support of healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19.

One World: Together at Home” kicked off with a six-hour digital stream followed by a two-hour broadcast special, both starring a mighty lineup of entertainers. Over 270 million people from 175 countries tuned in to the special, which produced $127 million in donations toward WHO’s work around the world. In the days following the special, Universal Music Group and Global Citizen released a 79-song album featuring performances from the event, available across streaming services Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify and TIDAL.

We spoke with Global Citizen chief growth officer Danielle Maged to understand how a lean international advocacy organization such as Global Citizen turned a virtual music event into a movement and how brands can pivot from physical to virtual experiences during and after the crisis.

What was the biggest challenge Global Citizen faced in navigating partnerships for the “One World: Together at Home” broadcast event?

There was a digital component and a broadcast component, which formed an eight-hour event in total. When we were thinking about partnerships with this effort, we originally approached it coming off of the digital series “Together at Home” that we had launched about a week prior. At the end of March, we realized we wanted to do something big. We were aware that many people were losing their jobs and we just didn’t want it to be a direct-to-consumer fundraising effort. So we took a step back and we said, okay, how can we be successful in our endeavor? When looking at partners to make that successful on the fundraising side, we needed to have the corporate sector, foundations and philanthropists. These three partners were key stakeholders.

On actually distributing the event, we needed there to be broadcasters. This is where we approached ABC, CBS, NBC, iHeartMedia and Bell Media networks at the end of March over the weekend. All of them pretty much immediately came on board. We also utilized various digital streaming platforms which were also extremely important including Amazon Prime Video, Facebook and YouTube.

Then there’s the music industry and Universal Music Group with which Lady Gaga curated the event. We also had about 12 corporate partners that were a hugely important sector because not only were they donating to the World Health Organization (WHO) and regional response, but they were also helping us on execution. We were so lean as a non-profit that we really needed the amplification from a lot of the partners to help us market across linear and digital. These partners came in over a span of about a week and included Cisco, Citi, the Coca-Cola Company, Analog Devices, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, State Farm, Target, Teneo, Verizon, Vodafone and WW International, Inc. 

Our first press release went out Monday, March 30 announcing the event with WHO. From on-boarding to planning to execution, “One World: Together at Home” happened within a 19-day period. The web of stakeholders and partners was by far the most complex I’ve ever managed in a very long career. As complex as it was, it was pretty seamless. We were all focused on the end result, which was raising the funds, standing in solidarity and telling the stories of the healthcare workers. The reaction was so strong in the planning that originally the digital component was supposed to only be two hours but we ended up expanding it to six.

What platforms did Global Citizen utilize for the marketing and distribution of the special?

On the marketing side, we leveraged YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook related to promoting tune-ins. We did very little paid on the preponderance of organic posting. I have a team internally that runs social and content so we did a lot of organic. What was really instrumental was the support we had on both linear and digital from big partners like Pepsi, Verizon and Procter & Gamble, who did paid media plans on linear against it. They created their own promos. Procter & Gamble, for example, promoted in China. Pepsi was very active in the US and actually ran a spot in the Modern Family finale. Our partners were instrumental in helping us amplify it on TV. On the distribution side, Amazon was extremely supportive; on the day of it was on the homepage of Amazon Prime. The additional platforms also played a really important role in our success——Alibaba, Apple, Facebook, Instagram, LiveXLive, Tencent, Tencent Music Entertainment Group, TIDAL, TuneIn, Twitch, Twitter, Yahoo and YouTube.

What did the day of broadcast look like for your team?

It was a massive effort day-of. We had a war room of sorts for social listening, which we brought in a company to help with. We were keeping a really close eye on what was happening on social via a WhatsApp group. I was corresponding to my team who were still promoting the event. Additionally, we were dealing with the last-minute press and promotion of the program internationally as it was set to air in Europe the next day on the BBC and in China later in the week.

How did this year’s event compare to the 2019 Global Citizen Festival?

It’s like comparing apples and oranges. First off, Global Citizen had never launched an effort this large in scale so quickly—in less than four weeks. Last year’s Global Citizen Festival was a physical event that took place in Central Park, and in South Africa the year before that. There was a six-month lead up to these events and they were very focused on a combination of pop and policy. Whereas there was an urgency to this year’s effort due to the global nature that didn’t exist before.

In short, they’re very different vehicles. We use the same assets in our website, our direct-to-consumer outreach of all of our own audience, our own digital army, social media and the influence of earned media. But the global nature of this year’s event was unparalleled from any past event that the organization has done.

How did this year’s marketing efforts differ from last year’s?

For Global Citizen, social media always plays a really big role. The reality is the organization is a non-profit advocacy platform; it’s not a commercial organization, which is the world that I come from where there are marketing budgets. Just like in the past, we had to think about how to be really lean and effective at the same time. So we used our social channels, our editorial channels and our partners. Unlike in the past, we didn’t have linear promotion running other than on the broadcasting channel itself with MSNBC for Global Citizen Festival. But “One World: Together at Home” was promoted on many networks which was different from the past, made possible by the media buys that our partners were doing. I’d say linear promotion through our partners probably played a more important role this year than in the past.

What advice would you offer to brands/agencies on pivoting from experiential activations to virtual and digital activations during the pandemic and after?

If you’re going to create immersive vehicles that are not based in physical, the brand you partner with has to be a really authentic fit. We were really lucky in that we had a bunch of brands that were a good fit. Virtual engagement is definitely a viable and sustainable tactic that brands can rally around. The reality is we’re not going to be in physical large spaces for a pretty long time so we have to figure out as marketers how to keep our brands top of mind. 

Global Citizen is an incredible partner to brands because we have the authenticity, the experience, the relationships in the music industry and the sports industry, plus our content is really unique. When brands are looking to partner during the pandemic, there is an ability for them to create unique content while doing good at the same time and making sure the tone is right. We focused most of “One World: Together at Home” on tone. All programming vehicles had different tones; some were more locally focused. Ours was really global in nature, as was the tone of some of our brand partners. So as long as brands remain authentic and understand what they’re trying to achieve with the people they’re partnering with and what they’re trying to say to their viewers, there’s a huge opportunity right now to create compelling virtual experiences.

Popeyes Launches Recruiting Campaign To Help Struggling Musicians

The pandemic has shuttered bars and concert venues, leaving musicians without an audience or income. To provide some financial relief, Popeyes has launched a recruiting campaign called #LoveThatJingle in its hometown of New Orleans to pay musicians to record an adaptation of its “Love That Chicken” jingle to be used in Popeyes ads.

New Orleans-based musicians can apply between May 1-May 18 by posting a video demo adaptation of the Popeyes jingle with the hashtag #LoveThatJingle.

On the #LoveThatJingle microsite Popeyes posted the “Love That Chicken” original sheet music, plus a list of home recording tips for musicians interested in applying, asking that they film themselves horizontally and avoid wearing any recognizable branded elements.

A Popeyes rep will notify select musicians on or before May 25 via direct message on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or email. Popeyes will feature the winning demos in its television and radio commercials.

In addition to publicizing the campaign to New Orleans natives through social media, Popeyes ran a full-page ad in The Times-Picayune featuring its jingle’s original sheet music.

Starting today Popeyes is extending the #LoveThatJingle opportunity to musicians nationwide. Musicians can submit their recordings on social media using the hashtag and in turn, Popeyes will compensate selected musicians as well as use the video content in its social media posts.

Various music and streaming companies have rallied behind struggling musicians during coronavirus. On Friday, March 20, Bandcamp waived its revenue shares for 24 hours to direct all revenue to artists, resulting in the company’s biggest sales day ever, with the purchase of about 800,000 items resulting in $4.3 million—more than 15 times Bandcamp’s normal Friday.

In late April, Spotify launched the “Artist Fundraising Pick” feature which enables artists to raise money for themselves, their group members or one of the certified music relief organizations in Spotify’s COVID-19 Music Relief project. Through its Music Relief project, Spotify is making a donation to organizations that are offering financial relief to creators worldwide. Spotify said it will match donations made on the relief’s microsite up to $10 million.