Snapchat’s VP Of Diversity, Equity And Inclusion On Disrupting Bias In Tech And Media

This year, Snapchat released its first-ever Snap Inc. Diversity Annual Report. Among things like how the company has driven diversity in recent years and its plans for the future, the 36-page report revealed that black workers and Hispanic workers comprise just 4.1 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively, of Snapchat’s US workforce.

The company addressed its efforts to bridge that gap and others in an Advertising Week panel, “Disrupting Bias at Scale,” featuring Oona King, Snapchat vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and Ed Couchman, Snapchat regional general manager, DACH, Netherlands, Nordics and UK.

King, a former Google exec and the second black woman elected to British Parliament, shares the lens through which Snapchat sees the way forward in eradicating systemic racism in tech and media. That vision, she says, requires a plan to increase the diversity of Snapchat’s workforce, increase the inclusivity of Snapchat’s culture and increase the inclusivity of Snapchat products. Snap’s success in DEI depends on three pillars: leadership, accountability and inspiration. 

The app’s first step toward greater diversity was collecting inclusive data reflective of its global workforce. King says companies should appoint someone with a diverse background to own this project, but cautions against relying solely on that individual to change the company culture.

Everyone across industry level, including C-suite, must be involved. For leaders, that means identifying their privilege where they have it and then actually using it for the people who lack it, King says. Snapchat, for example, has implemented channels of communications between leadership and employee resource groups (ERGs). For example, executives sponsor ERGs and partner with them on initiatives executives work with ERGs to pilot partnerships aimed at increasing product diversity.

According to King, dialogue creates transparency and helps leaders stay accountable to their beliefs and plans around DEI. Since launching its first employee resource group in 2016, Snapchat now has 20 chapters around the world. Still, Snapchat’s report notes, “the burden of advocating for important DEI initiatives and accountability often has fallen on [ERGs] — rather than on our whole team.”

Another area Snapchat has ample room to grow is representation in tech roles, where the lack of diversity is most pronounced. A whopping 91 percent of Snapchat’s team members in these roles are white or Asian. According to King, the way to increase representation of racial minorities in such roles doesn’t start with hiring—it starts with improving the company culture.

“There’s no point in bringing women or underrepresented racial minorities into a tech work space that is very white. In a work culture, people get thousands of signals everyday as to whether they’re welcome or not. It’s those signals that determine if they stick around,” she says.

What King found at YouTube and Google is when they put specific measures in place to address retention, doing so had as much of an impact, if not a bigger impact, than addressing hiring.

Other ways Snapchat is fostering diversity include building a diverse group of employees to create inclusive machine learning systems; launching the first-ever formal audit of its content mix to understand its baseline for demographic representation; and instituting a living wage of $70,000 annually for all its US team members.

At the end of the day, it comes down to internal work and ensuring your diversity goals are managed the same way other business-related endeavors are. For Snapchat, King says this meant making diversity the heart of its business strategy.

“You can have all the most brilliant plans in the world for systems of accountability, but if the human beings with roles of leadership within those systems aren’t inspired to make diversity a top priority, nothing happens. And I know that. I’ve seen it time and again,” King says.

Design, VC, And Business with Frog President Andy Zimmerman

In this 227th episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Andy Zimmerman, president of Frog, a company that assists leading businesses in designing, engineering, and bringing meaningful products to market.

Zimmerman began his career as a writer traveling with the circus around Europe. “Life is just a circus,” he says whenever someone asks him about his past. He likes to think of himself as a storyteller, inspiring clients to try new things and put themselves out there. Zimmerman believes it’s essential to “make functional designs but also designs that touch people at an emotional level.” We talk about how Frog has spearheaded HBO Max’s creation, pushing to create a social platform that is “a combination of Spotify and Netflix.” He then talks about how the experience industry has begun to blend and where that takes the industry in a future that includes COVID. “To be a leader, you need to show your vulnerability so that other people feel comfortable to show theirs,” and Zimmerman tries to keep that in mind as he leads Frog into a new world!

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Andy traveled with the circus as an aspiring writer and novelist. 1:28
  • Having such a wide array of experiences has given Andy unique opportunities. 4:02
  • Andy has always fallen into the next new thing. 4:59
  • The fascinating 50-year history of Frog. 6:28
  • How the founder of Frog came to design for Steve Jobs and Apple. 8:15
  • Frog has been able to have a massive impact on the world while staying relatively small. 9:45
  • Creating HBO max and all the challenges that came with it. 10:15
  • HBO Max has added a social element to movie platforms. 11:20
  • Aligning with Tuesday Capital has been a mutually beneficial relationship. 12:45
  • Frog has been successful at separating themselves from their competition. 15:38
  • Service providers have begun to blend for multiple reasons. 17:53
  • Design touchpoints are beginning to blur. 20:10
  • COVID has led a massive push to digital and ARVR. 21:20
  • Definitions of on-site and off-site are beginning to change. 22:55
  • Andy had an experience that led to his spiritual awakening. 24:12
  • A casual conversation sparked Andy’s search for spiritual insight. 25:30
  • How religion as a child can shape your beliefs later in life. 27:15
  • Don’t ever lose who you are as you grow older. 28:50
  • Spotify has been the most impactful purchase for Andy this year. 29:45
  • Companies that are working to decrease the carbon footprint deserve credit. 31:23
  • Bell Weather brings an eco-efficient solution to coffee-making that helps 3rd-world farmers. 32:50
  • The trend of digital dominance is threatening the world of digital marketers. 34:07
  • Discovery challenges that await the retail industry in the future. 36:59

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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.

WARC: Ecommerce Sales Set To Reach $2.9 Trillion This Year

With out-of-home activities on the back burner until further notice, consumers are increasingly turning to contactless services and online shopping. As a result, ecommerce is on track to have a huge year. According to WARC’s latest global ad trends report, the pandemic will lead to an additional $183 billion in online spending in 2020, while overall ecommerce sales are projected to grow by 30.4 percent to $2.9 trillion.

Brands are prepared to spend big to reach online shoppers. WARC’s data show companies will invest $59 billion in ecommerce advertising this year, driven by an increased use of lower-funnel tactics.

Ecommerce ad spend shows no signs of slowing down. Advertising across ecommerce sites, omnichannel retailers and social commerce is growing 30 times faster than the wider online ad market, the report found.

That upward momentum is likely to continue, as research from McKinsey & Company shows 21 percent of Americans have tried a new digital shopping method since the pandemic and 80 percent intend to continue the usage beyond the crisis. In addition, many have found new places to shop via a digital channel, including an online ad (23 percent) and social media post (16 percent).

The report also provides insight into how Alibaba and Amazon’s ad businesses, respectively, are performing in the age of coronavirus. Growing 4.5 times faster than Facebook’s and 63 times faster than Alphabet’s, Amazon’s ad business is expected to be worth $18.1 billion this year, up 35.6 percent from last year.

Alibaba’s ad business, the third largest in the world, is set to make $23.5 billion from selling ad inventory across its ecommerce properties this year, a 6.6 percent increase from 2019.

Lastly, WARC found that livestreams are bolstering China’s ecommerce sales and growing to account for a fifth of the country’s ecommerce. Taobao, TikTok and Kwai—the largest three livestreaming platforms there—accounted for 69.1 percent of livestreamed sales this year.

Niche Is The New Broad

(Originally aired September 29th on LinkedIn Live.)

On today’s episode of Listen In, Matt Bretz chats with Amber Kazalbash, senior strategist at R/GA. Amber explains why brands are departing from a “biggest, broadest reach” approach and focusing more and more on niche audiences.

Amber’s influence online as a second-generation Pakistani American Muslim woman has given her personal insight on the marketing and professional opportunities of embracing varied identities in a connected space. She explains her background as an alumnus at Ayzenberg Group and her experience as a senior strategist, which she defines as understanding and building the connection between brands, their products and consumers. 

Amber also explores her work with legacy crafts retailer Michaels and explains how COVID-19 impacted her team’s ‘Made by You’ campaign in addition to describing the opportunities available to brands by acknowledging niche segments. Ultimately the conversation touches on the notion that indicators of unique expression have taken precedence over a focus on broad segments. Behavior is personalized and individualistic and we can lean on our own experiences to see this. 

About Listen In: Each week on Listen In, Bretz and a rotating cast of hosts from Ayzenberg interview experts in the field of marketing and advertising to explore uncharted territory together. The goal is to provide the audience with actionable insights, enabling them to excel in their field.

ViacomCBS And Ad Council Launch ‘Vote For Your Life’ Campaign

In 2016, just 46.1 percent of the country’s 18-29-year-old voters cast a ballot. To encourage a higher voter turnout among young adults, ViacomCBS and the Ad Council have launched a digital campaign called Vote For Your Life. The initiative aims to encourage mass registration and early voting among Gen Z and millennials, who comprise 10 percent and 27 percent of eligible US voters, respectively.

With voter registration down by as much as 70 percent in some states, MTV will pay for the cost of printing and mailing ballot applications for US voters via the through October 6. The online hub, powered by BallotReady and TurboVote, also lets users check their registration status, request their ballot early, preview candidates up for election in their district and access resources to inform their vote.

The Vote For Your Life campaign includes two short video spots, one that links the significance of voting with the issues that young black and Latino voters care about, and another that encourages younger audiences to vote for access to better mental health. The spots are available in English and Spanish.

The campaign is an extension of MTV’s Vote Early Day, a new holiday slated for October 24 that aims to make early voting options more accessible. Among the initiative’s 1,300 partners are Twitter, Univision, USA Today, Snapchat, REI, Ben & Jerry’s, PayPal, BuzzFeed and Reddit.

Other voter turnout campaigns across ViacomCBS properties include BET’s #ReclaimYourVote campaign which included National Black Voter Day on September 18, a joint grassroots effort with the National Urban League to educate and mobilize black voters; MTV’s +1thevote, a year-long campaign focused on making voting easier and more social in light of over 4 million people turning 18 before the election; and Power the Polls, an initiative from MTV and Comedy Central to recruit the next generation of poll workers, which recently amassed 425,000 signups.

DoubleVerify: Consumers Are Open To Ads, But Context Is Critical

As retailers prepare their holiday season marketing, they’d be wise to make contextual ads a key area of focus, for a new DoubleVerify study shows they’re the reason consumers are increasingly trying new brands during the pandemic. The global study, which surveyed 10,000 consumers across the US, the UK, France, Germany and Spain, examines how device types, evolving news cycles and new ad technologies have impacted consumers’ engagement with brands online.

Globally, consumers have more downtime and a need to stay informed as 44 percent are using connected television (CTV) devices more and 54 percent are using their smartphone more. As a result, time spent consuming content has ballooned, from 3 hours 17 minutes to an average of 6 hours 59 minutes.

Social media saw the biggest increase in consumption, with 48 percent of consumers spending more time on social platforms. In addition, 43 percent of 18-24 year olds report using YouTube more during the pandemic, followed by 40 percent for TikTok.

Nearly half, 47 percent, are spending more time reading online news and using streaming services such as Netflix more.

A need to access trusted information has encouraged consumers to subscribe to free publications, as 24 percent have done.

The report shows that a shift away from cookie-driven targeting solutions requires positive contextual targeting. In fact, 69 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to look at an ad that’s relevant to the content they’re seeing, with 44 percent saying they’ve tried a new brand after seeing a relevantly placed ad.

For example, 68 percent of consumers are more likely to engage with food and beverage ads that appear adjacent to relevant content they’ve already viewed.

Brands must reach consumers on the appropriate channel, however, as younger consumers prefer to see ads on social media (57 percent) while those over 45 years of age prefer seeing ads on television.

Equally as important as acknowledging where shoppers are open to seeing ads is determining the environment for an online ad, as 67 percent are more likely to engage with an ad on the website of a publisher they know and trust. For example, 41 percent of respondents say it’s appropriate for healthcare brands to advertise beside pandemic-related content.

Consumers are open to COVID-adjacent ads too, as long as they’re in the right place. For example, 48 percent favorably perceive ads adjacent to positive and neutral pandemic content, such as community success stories.

Over half (53 percent) of consumers are also more likely to look at ads on a publication’s homepage than on a different section of the site.

Still, fake news can threaten conversion, as 55 percent of consumers say they’d be less likely, or would never, buy from a brand if the brand’s ad appeared next to fake or misleading content.

Xbox Joined TikTok And Its Videos Racked Up 4 Million Views Within 24 Hours

As Chinese officials determine the fate of TikTok US, Xbox has officially joined TikTok ahead of the November 10 launch of its two new consoles, Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X. Within 24 hours, Xbox racked up 329,000 followers, 736,000 likes and 4 million views between its first two videos.

The brand’s tongue-in-cheek TikTok videos focus on its forthcoming consoles. In the first video, a guy says Xbox needs help figuring out what its first post should be–Xbox Series S or Series X. He then opens his iPhone photo album only to scroll through pictures of a bunch of items that look like, but aren’t, the consoles, including a two-burner stove, a record player and a fridge. He finally finds a video of Xbox Series X and finishes by urging fans to comment and “like for part two,” a trend that’s sweeping TikTok.

The second video calls out notable features of the all-digital Series S console, for example, that it’s the smallest Xbox the brand has ever made, has insanely fast load times, supports up to 120 frames per second (fps), is backwards compatible with thousands of games, and lastly, that, “it’s a little bit cheaper than the Xbox Series X.”

Xbox announced its TikTok account on Instagram Stories, as well as on Twitter with this post:

“Gaming is one of the most viewed verticals on TikTok so it’s a natural fit for Xbox to join the platform. The most important thing for us on TikTok is to be entertaining and authentic, rather than try to do any sort of heavy-handed sales messaging. The channel is designed to embrace the culture of the platform, build a genuine relationship with a new audience and uniquely celebrate gaming as a whole by leveraging a heavily curated voice, tone and content approach,” Erik Schmitt, Ayzenberg creative director tells us.

Xbox’s foray into TikTok comes at a time when interest in video games has spiked during the pandemic and video game brands look for new opportunities to reach TikTok’s fast-growing gaming community. 

In January, TikTok teamed up with Epic Games to launch a Fortnite dance challenge, and in May, the app partnered with the Collegiate StarLeague to launch TikTok Cup, an esports tournament for college students.

Today, #gaming on TikTok has 43.6 billion views and #gamer has 20.4 billion views. Not to mention in August, TikTok was the most downloaded non-gaming app globally in August with over 63.3 million installs, according to SensorTower data.

In the past few months, Microsoft has introduced a range of new experiences for fans like the launch of cloud gaming in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and an updated Microsoft Store on Xbox.

The store was completely rebuilt to make finding and buying new games easier, safer and faster, according to Dametra Johnson-Marletti, corporate vice president, Microsoft Store. Loading in less than two seconds, the store is twice the speed of the previous version and gives you the option to quickly filter and sort games by pressing ‘X’ on your controller. To make the experience family-friendly, Xbox is disabling anonymous logins, filtering content that blocks material above set restrictions and displaying full ratings information on the screen.

Xbox started rolling out the new store to users in September. It’s now available to everyone and will enter Chinese markets later this month.

Xbox recently claimed a larger chunk of the games market when it acquired ZeniMax Media and its game publisher Bethesda Softworks for $7.5 billion.

How Afro-Latino Agency Founder Rudy Manning Is Using His Experience To Foster Black Leaders In Design

In a 2017 AIGA poll of 9,602 global designers, 73 percent of those surveyed were white, while only three percent were African-American. Three years later, amid a global push to eradicate systemic racism, the question remains: Where are the black designers?

We spoke with Rudy Manning, co-founder and chief creative officer of Pastilla Inc., a data-driven creative and marketing agency in Pasadena that has worked with brands like Microsoft, ESPN and Disney, to name a few. Manning, who’s been teaching design classes at ArtCenter College of Design since 2014, shares how he’s applying his experience as one of the few Afro-Latino agency founders and teachers in design to increase BIPOC representation and design awareness among black youth, an undertaking he and Ayzenberg are working to address together.

Tell us about your role as chief creative officer of Pastilla.

I’m the original founder on Pastilla’s side for the first 14 years of the company. I merged with Kremsa Digital two years ago. As a CCO of a smaller agency, at least in the beginning, I was in charge of the business operations, as well as the strategic creative vision of the agency and how I want to position ourselves as an agency and a team. In our industry, everything is driven by your team. Ultimately what makes the agency is its people, so that’s at the forefront of everything I do.

When Pastilla opened, running the agency was my focus. But over the past three years, I started thinking about my role as a designer of color and how I can create more awareness about design and advertising in the black community, because in my career I’ve rarely received a portfolio from a black designer.

How has Black Lives Matter and the pandemic affected your role as co-founder and CCO?

The pandemic has set the stage for what’s next as to how I look at the agency as a person of color. Starting an agency and sustaining its growth is a difficult thing. The focus for the first 12 years was getting it to run. The sad part is that that became the focus, which is great. But I have a voice, an experience and a mentoring attitude so now my goal is to expose black youth to the design field and to the fact that it can be a great career that gives a lot back to you. That story needs to be told so I’m hoping to do that more.

The first step is hiring diverse talent. Finding more designers of color requires you to be conscious of your hiring process. If you’re not conscious, like in the first year of running Pastilla, you don’t have a chance to stop and see if you’ve fostered a diverse and inclusive team. Now that Pastilla is running sufficiently, it’s easier for me to analyze it.

What did your path to co-founding Pastilla look like?

My first memory of graphic design was a third grade contest for which I had to create a logo for a science expo. I lived in Germany as a little kid. My dad was an artist, he studied architecture and so forth. We worked on this logo together and our logo won. I still didn’t really understand what it was, I was only eight. But I knew when I walked around school, everyone was wearing this logo I made, and that gave me confidence.

Around that time as well, my dad bought me a Commodore VIC-20. At nine years old, I had to basically code my own games. Those two things were the perfect combination early on that continue to be a conversation in my house. I’m thankful to have parents who understood there was an opportunity in the creative field even though they didn’t know what graphic design was. That was the spark.

What are some barriers to growing black leaders in design and advertising?

Educating the parents is a big part of making a dent in growing more black designers. Graphic design in general is an abstract term to a lot of people. Knowing that it’s a viable career choice is even harder. On top of that, going to college is expensive. Even if you do have college opportunities, it would almost be strange to choose to study art over all these other things. That level of understanding among the black community isn’t there. They’re not privy to the number of careers you can have within the arts. So then it doesn’t become a choice. The family pushes away that choice from the child even if it’s something they like because school is so expensive already, so why pick art?

When I was young, my mother started a janitorial business with her husband that scaled really quickly and provided really well for my brother and I. Seeing her entrepreneurial spirit and drive has inspired me. When I got out of school, I wanted to do art. Jose Caballer and I went to ArtCenter around the same time. He is a Puerto Rican Latino who speaks Spanish, so he’s someone I could relate to. He told me he’s going to study graphic design. At the time, I didn’t know what graphic design was. He described it as doing logos for MTV. That comment sparked my interest. And we’re still friends to this day.

Pastilla has created many different types of work in design. Can you tell us more about the agency’s vision?

Right out of school, I wanted to do it all—packaging, motion and interactive design. My portfolio showed it. When I started the studio, I wanted to continue that movement and think of design holistically as much as possible, like the Eames couple who saw art and design as one unit. We were doing commercials and documentaries, then we did a print campaign for Surface. Then we would do brand strategy for Microsoft Band. When you go too broad, you start to wonder, what is the thing that a client will remember you by? That started becoming a topic as we scaled. So the thread there ended up being branding, which funnels into many applications.

How do we give black youth the same type of exposure and connection to opportunities in design and advertising that you experienced organically?

As a mentor, I see students come in and out. Sometimes I think a student needs a lot of work and I’m not sure if they should even be in design or if they have passion for it. There have been times where that same student returns to my classes a year later, completely different. If they found it within themselves to continue to grow, they definitely grew. 

When you’re mentoring, you have to see it like you’re giving into something that isn’t going to have a direct return. Mentoring takes time. It’s incremental and cumulative. Someone somewhere else is going to take the baton. At some point, the dots are going to connect for the student. The problem is there aren’t enough black mentors in design that can serve as an example to black youth and show them if he can do it, I can do it too. It’s no different from seeing so many African American basketball players—kids grow up and think that’s the only option for them. That’s just one avenue, but the reason they look there is because they see themselves there most often.

Do you remember when you first realized black designers in advertising were underrepresented and have you noticed the same lack of diversity in your work environments?

I think it started at ArtCenter. I was one of two people of color. There were maybe a handful of people who were Latino. One student was from Kenya. Over the three years I was there, she and I were the only ones.

I can count on one hand how many people of color I worked with over 20 years in graphic design, maybe less. Some were in animation and other disciplines around graphic design. One person who I should mention was Denise Gonzales Crisp, who taught night classes while I was at ArtCenter. She’s now at North Carolina State University College of Design. I took those classes to prepare my portfolio for ArtCenter and she brought in this student to show his work. In comes this student with an afro haircut and I look at him and gasp, thinking oh my gosh, he’s black. He was a student at the time but she wanted us to see his work. I remember going, that’s amazing, he’s talented and he looks like me. His name is Tryone Drake, and he now teaches at ArtCenter as the only black graphic design instructor other than me. 

You recently joined the Slack channel, ‘Where are the Black Designers?” How did you discover it and what’s the channel’s mission?

Where are the Black Designers? is an initiative and platform for black designers. They have a Slack channel where black designers, educators and creators go to connect, learn about jobs and mentor other black designers. I just joined and I’ve been mentoring people. I just spoke with the founder of a new brand strategy consultancy. She’s been running the company for six months and I shared with her my thoughts.

I want to do more of that. Pastilla is looking for a project manager so I’m being more conscious of not looking in the typical network that I usually do, because I’ll probably get similar types of people. As an agency owner, I have to make a conscious effort to think about who we hire and where we look for potential hires. 

Can you share more about the work you’re starting with Price School?

Frederick K.C. Price III Schools is a value-based, college preparatory school in Los Angeles that Pastilla did some creative and marketing for. Two years ago, my wife created a beautiful short documentary film that ended up becoming a commercial for the school. When we first started working with them, the school was closing. We ended up helping keep it open. The school is primarily an African American school, and it has a 100% graduate rate and college acceptance rate. I didn’t see any graphic design programs there or discussion of arts programs other than theater and music. I knew in the back of my mind, I wanted to find a way to get more involved there with the arts program.

So I connected the ArtCenter with Price School and we’re coming up with ways to have designers like myself, Tyrone and other Latino instructors create curriculum, do tours, career workshops, design workshops and ultimately plant those seeds in students that might be creative. It’s about finding ways to have design related to them from the brands they buy to the shoes they wear to the music they listen to. I want to show them that graphic design is everywhere around them and there are opportunities beyond playing a sport, like designing the entire brand identity system or marketing campaign for a sports team.

What’s your ultimate goal for partnering with Ayzenberg to expose local black youth in Pasadena to design?

The overarching goal is to find ways to introduce more people of color to the possibility of design and art as a career. On a granular level, it’s about getting the percentage of black leaders in design and advertising closer to the percentage of the black population in the US. If around 10 percent of the US population is black, can we get that to five or seven percent? And how do we measure that?  Because if you look at other industries like music and sports, BIPOC representation is way higher.

Emarketer: Over 6 Million US Households Will Cut Cable This Year

Cable, satellite and telecom television providers will take a massive hit due to the enticing affordability of streaming alternatives, new data from eMarketer shows.

According to the researcher, by the end of this year, 31.2 million US households will have cut the cable television cord. Another 6.6 million households will cancel their traditional pay television subscription.

By 2024, eMarketer anticipates more than one-third (35.4 percent) of US households will have cut the pay television cord, leaving fewer than half of US households with a pay television service.

Coupled with the high prices of cable television, the loss of live sports in the first half of 2020 contributed to the declines. This leaves 77.6 million US households with cable, satellite or telecom television packages, a 7.5 percent decrease year-over-year and a 22.8 percent drop since pay television’s peak in 2014.

“As pay TV subscriber losses accumulate, cable providers have been focusing on their internet services, which are more profitable and have benefited from the consumer shift to streaming video,” said Eric Haggstrom, eMarketer forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence.

The state of pay television comes at a time when traditional television ad revenues have plummeted due to the pandemic. Total ad spend on traditional television will decline by 15 percent this year to $60 billion, the lowest the industry has seen since 2011, according to the researcher.

Meanwhile, consumers have shown an increased interest in connected television (CTV). New data from DoubleVerify revealed a surge in content consumption driven by more time spent using CTV devices. Nearly half (44 percent) of consumers say they’re using CTV devices more since the pandemic began, while 21 percent expect to watch more television after the pandemic.

Reddit Introduces Tiered Ad Inventory With Stricter Brand Safety Controls

This week in social media news, Reddit debuts stronger brand safety controls with tiered ad inventory, ByteDance seeks approval of its partnership with Oracle and Walmart from commerce authorities in Beijing, LinkedIn launches Stories and its first redesign in five years, Twitch sees strong growth during the pandemic, Pinterest launches Story Pins that live forever and more.

Reddit Debuts Stricter Brand Safety Controls With Tiered Ad Inventory

Reddit is rolling out three tiers of inventory for its ad offering together with Oracle Data Cloud’s contextual intelligence, which will provide an added layer of third-party filtering.

Why it matters: Up until now, Reddit offered the same set of inventory to all advertisers with universal brand safety controls.

The details: With Reddit’s new feature, advertisers can choose from three tiers of ad inventory based on their individual campaign goals, brand safety requirements and targeting goals. 

The “limited inventory” tier provides the strictest brand safety measures with more controlled reach, “standard inventory” provides balanced reach and protection to fit the needs of “most advertisers” and “expanded inventory” gives advertisers access to Reddit’s maximum inventory pool and 20 percent more communities for targeting while placing them next to the broadest range of content.

Regardless of the tier, Reddit says ads can only appear in communities on its “hand-curated allow list” and that advertisers will have the choice to enable or disable comments, as well as exclude certain keywords and communities.

Over 30 brands across consumer packaged goods, finance, health, gaming and wellness have tested Reddit’s new inventory types. The feature is available for all Reddit advertisers today.

ByteDance Seeks Approval From Beijing On Deal With Oracle, Walmart

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has submitted its plan to form its US-based company with Oracle and Walmart to commerce authorities in Beijing under recently expanded export regulations, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: China’s involvement comes after the country adding data-processing technologies, such as TikTok’s algorithm, to its list of restricted exports in August, putting the fate of TikTok’s proposed new US company, TikTok Global, in the hands of China’s ministries in charge of commerce and science and technology.

The details: Under the tentative agreement to keep TikTok in the US, Oracle and Walmart would have a 20 percent cumulative stake in TikTok Global, with Oracle moving all American data to its Generation 2 Cloud data centers.

China’s state media, however, slammed the deal as “dirty and unfair.”

Gao Feng, a spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry said ByteDance’s application for technology export is being revised by Beijing’s commerce bureau.

LinkedIn Unveils Redesign, Stories Plus New Video Integrations

LinkedIn has announced its first major redesign in five years, which includes a new streamlined search experience, the addition of Stories, video integrations with Zoom and Microsoft Teams and more.

Why it matters: LinkedIn’s community, where three people are hired every second, comprises over 700 million professionals worldwide, chief executive officer Ryan Roslansky said in a company blog post.

The details: LinkedIn’s new design features a new warm color palette and elements that meet accessibility standards and allow for text scaling, bigger touch targets and contrast for readability.

Users can now share moments of their everyday professional lives with LinkedIn Stories, available now in the US and Canada, and globally in the coming weeks.

LinkedIn is also introducing a new feature that lets users initiate a video call directly within messages using Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans by Verizon or Zoom. Other new messaging features include the ability to edit or delete sent messages and react to messages with emojis.

Lastly, search on LinkedIn will show more organized results with jobs, people, courses, groups, events and content in one search result. Plus, LinkedIn has added keyword filters for people—previously only available on the web—to the LinkedIn mobile app, as well as filters for company by location, industry and company size.

Twitch Sees 1.47 Billion Hours Watched In August

According to StreamElements and’s monthly report, State of the Stream August 2020, Twitch experienced its first month-over-month increase since April with 1.47 billion hours watched in August, while Facebook Gaming reached a new milestone with 346 million hours watched in August.

Why it matters: 
Twitch will likely continue to have a leg up on Facebook Gaming, as Amazon just announced its new cloud gaming service called Luna, which costs $5.99 a month and will heavily integrate with Twitch.

The details: Twitch and Facebook Gaming both saw strong year-over-year growth. Twitch is up 57 percent, from 932 million hours in August 2019 to 1.5 billion hours this year. During the same time frame, Facebook Gaming increased 179 percent, from 124 million hours watched to 346 million.  

First on the most-watched category list for August is Just Chatting, which has been on top for four consecutive months, followed by League of Legends, Fall Guys, Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto V. Social party games have also enjoyed newfound success, with Fall Guys receiving 106 million hours watched and Among us experiencing a 650 percent surge month-over-month in hours watched.

Cooking shows on Twitch have also gained traction, with hours watched of Food & Drink increasing 96 percent quarter-over-quarter and 132 percent YoY.

Pinterest Launches Story Pins To Help Creators Grow Their Audience  

Pinterest is rolling out a suite of publishing and measurement tools made for creators including permanent Story Pins in beta, updated creator profiles, the ability to direct message creators and reaction buttons.

Why it matters: Pinterest’s new creator-first tools are part of the platform’s larger ecommerce and influencer marketing efforts that aim to cater to its 400 million monthly active users, 60 percent of which are women. Over the past few months, it has launched a host of shopping tools including a partnership with Shopify, a Shop tab and shopping spotlights with influencers and publishers.

The details: Pinterest’s Story Pins, which can be published directly to Pinterest via the Pinterest camera, will enable creators to post videos with voiceover, image and text overlay. Pinners can like, comment on and save Story Pins to boards for later, plus watch them anytime because they don’t disappear after 24 hours. Pinterest says Story Pins are powered by the “visual discovery engine that matches new ideas to people with relevant interest and tastes.”

Next up, Pinterest is updating creator profiles, which will show a creator’s published content front and center. In addition, Pinners can now message creators via the Contact or Message card, as well as react to their content using new buttons such as “Great idea,” “Love,” “Wow” and “Thanks.”

Pinterest is also adding new analytics tools and an engagement tab, where creators can like or respond to photos on Pins in one place.

Lastly, creators can better understand how their content is performing with Pinterest’s new Pin Stats, which show key metrics like impressions and engagement on the app’s redesigned Analytics dashboard.

Pinterest has given select creators in the US access to Story Pins and will roll the feature out to international creators over the coming months. All other features are live for Pinners with business accounts today.

US Tentatively Approves Oracle, Walmart Deal For TikTok

TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has received tentative approval for an agreement with the US government that involves Oracle and Walmart acquiring 20 percent of TikTok’s newly formed company TikTok Global, according to a press release.

Why it matters: The landmark deal came just a day after the US Department of Commerce issued an order that would ban new downloads and software updates to TikTok, making TikTok downloads surge to 202,000 on September 20, according to App Annie data.

The details: As TikTok’s “trusted cloud and technology provider,” Oracle will be responsible for fully securing TikTok users’ data, interim head of TikTok Vanessa Pappas said in a company blog post. If the deal is approved, that means all American data will be moved to Oracle’s Generation 2 Cloud data centers. Pappas added that TikTok will expand the US as TikTok Global’s headquarters, which will create 25,000 jobs in the US.

In a separate press release, Walmart announced that it has tentatively agreed to purchase 7.5 percent of TikTok Global, as well as provide TikTok with its ecommerce, fulfillment, payments and other omnichannel services. In addition, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon would serve as one of five board members of TikTok Global.

The press releases state that TikTok Global will file an initial public offering in the US in less than a year.

Users Call Out Twitter’s Photo Preview For Favoring White Faces Over Black Faces

Twitter chief design officer Dantley Davis says the company is investigating why its algorithm responsible for generating photo previews shows white people’s faces more often than black faces, The Verge reports.

Why it matters: According to The Verge, Twitter’s informal testing of its neural network began after a Twitter user noticed Twitter was favoring his white face over his black colleague’s face during a video meeting. Another user found that Twitter’s preview algorithm favors non-black cartoon characters as well.

The details: As per a blog post from 2018, when Twitter started using the neural network to automatically crop photo previews, Twitter said its facial recognition system had limitations, including mistakenly detecting faces when there were none or focusing the view on the most prominent face it could find.

Instagram To Open Up Messaging To Third Parties

Instagram is creating an API for its messaging service that will help brands manage their DMs with customers, according to Business Insider.

Why it matters: Brands on Instagram currently have three options for managing their conversations with users, including the Instagram app, Instagram desktop and the Facebook-enabled Creator Studio.

The details: The API expansion would enable big brands to access messages from users through third-party services similar to features that already exist in WhatsApp and Messenger.

TikTok Reportedly Discusses CEO Role With Instagram Co-Founder

According to The New York Times, TikTok is searching for a permanent chief executive to replace Kevin Mayer, who resigned in late August, and has been in talks with co-founder and former Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom.

Why it matters: TikTok recently hired Cheryl Gresham, former global head of integrated media at YouTube, as head of media and partnerships. TikTok’s hiring of Gresham and discussion with Systrom indicate it has plans to continue growing in the US despite the hurdles it must overcome to avoid a ban.

The details: TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer resigned after three months, citing the evolving political pressures of the role. Vanessa Pappas, general manager of TikTok in North America, has taken over in the interim.

Facebook Publishes Guide On How To Maximize Video Content

Facebook has published a 14-page guide to give video creators adapting to new business challenges practical tips on how to increase content production and maximize video content

Why it matters: Facebook says that since Facebook Live launched, users have created over 8.5 billion broadcasts and Live viewers increased in the US by 50 percent during February and March.

The details: Among the tips in Facebook’s video content guide are going live, reposting evergreen and topical content, bulk uploading back catalog using Creator Studio, organizing content using new playlist and series tools, creating a relevant challenge for fans to participate in and highlighting top stories around specific themes.