A Microsoft deal for TikTok is a win for Big Tech

Hi and welcome to Insider Advertising, weekly edition. I’m Lucia Moses, deputy editor. To get this in your inbox daily, go here.

This week: Microsoft’s play for TikTok, Netflix’s new secret weapon, and takeaways of the Facebook ad boycott.

microsoft tiktok

TikTok users are making memes about stanning Microsoft.
@prettyboykope/@blueboynv/TikTok

Microsoft is interested in advertising again

People who know their Microsoft history are scratching their heads when it comes to its planned deal for TikTok’s US business, and not just because it would plunge the tech giant into the unfamiliar territory unknown of teen-driven social media, with all its potential messiness and drama.

It’s also because Microsoft all but abandoned its ad business in 2015 after its display ad revenue eroded over several years.

In recent years, it’s focused on going after Amazon and Google on sponsored products, but still holds only an estimated 1.4% of the display ad market, according to EMarketer. 

And while TikTok’s own ad business is nascent, it has big potential, with its growing, young user base that advertisers are salivating over.

A successful takeover could help Microsoft erode Facebook and Google’s stronghold on digital advertising. But it would also help solidify tech giant’s control over advertising and the rules that govern it.

And the losers? Old-guard media companies, for one, none of which has the means to bid for a company some valued at $50 billion, and whose voice at the advertising table will only continue to diminish.


Bozoma Saint John Netflix

Bozoma Saint John attends the American Black Film Festival Honors Awards Ceremony at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 23, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Bozoma Saint John is Netflix’s new secret weapon

Media coverage of Bozoma Saint John has largely focused on her glamour and charisma, but Tanya Dua and Patrick Coffee examined the ex-Apple and Uber marketer’s record in this insightful profile as she starts as Netflix’s CMO.

Saint John’s approach runs counter to the trend of data-driven marketing, which has made her a target of some. But consider what her hire signals about how Netflix sees its challenges as its field becomes more competitive. From their piece:

Forrester principal analyst Jim Nail said co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos have recently begun emphasizing Netflix’s ability to influence pop culture through a steady stream of original hits like “Bird Box,” which helps it retain subscribers and sign up new ones who don’t want to miss out on the latest cultural phenomenon…

Nail said Netflix’s goal of influencing culture lined up with Saint John’s record of helping companies stand out by co-opting trends beyond their industries.

“It’s almost a repositioning. They’re certainly enhancing and enriching their positioning with the idea of being a key part of culture,” he said.

Read the full profile here: How Netflix’s new CMO Bozoma Saint John rose to become the biggest ‘badass’ in marketing


Facebook’s ad boycott: An accounting

More than 1,000 advertisers boycotted Facebook in a historic backlash against the company. But did any of it matter? Here are some key numbers, per Tanya Dua:

  • Some advertisers, convinced by Facebook’s promises to do better monitoring hate speech, or need to make their sales numbers, are returning, and some are staying away, but the biggest impact may have been to its reputation among some users.
  • Facebook’s ad revenue in the first three weeks of July grew about 10% year over year, the same rate as its second quarter.
  • It reminded us that it’s mostly reliant on small advertisers who continue to spend there, with its top 100 advertisers accounting for 16% of its over-$70 billion ad revenue.

Read more: Advertisers not part of the boycott also cut back spending on Facebook in July, but the platform says it will be just fine


Other stories you should check out in media, advertising, and beyond:

Thanks for reading. See you next week!

— Lucia

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Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member. Exclusive FREE Report: 30 Big Tech Predictions for 2020 by Insider Intelligence

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