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The communications briefing: Leading ad tech firms, ad agencies and publishers team up to reform digital advertising

PR news this week, with thanks to Early Morning Media 


Companies team up to reform digital advertising industry
A group of 16 companies – including leading ad tech firms, ad agencies and publishers – is looking to reform the digital advertising industry, calling for more visibility into where money is spent, and for better standards and practices for sharing data on fees and authenticating content. The group, led by ad tech company MediaMath and including Oracle, IBM Watson Advertising, Havas Media and News Corporation, also hopes to apply pressure on the digital ad powers to pry open their “black box” marketplaces, by disclosing fees and other information. They want to be a viable alternative to Google and Facebook, which supply tools for ad buyers and sellers and run the auctions within their digital walls. MediaMath has held discussions with Google about possibly joining the initiative, but not Facebook, the company said.
New York Times

Marketing trends for 2020: Brands seek expansion for competitive edge
Fifty-three per cent of marketers across Europe have made expanding into new markets their top priority for 2020, according to research from Rakuten Marketing. Commissioned among 610 brand marketers in the UK, France and Germany, the study also found that 74% of marketing budgets are set to increase amidst economic uncertainty, reflecting an average budget increase of £275,000 among mid-size brands of 101-150 employees. Sourcing new customers represents the greatest challenge for 45% of marketers, with affiliate marketing and social media advertising (both 40%) identified as key investment areas. “Marketers clearly see 2020 as a vital year to find solid international footing amid the rise of the digitally native retailers that have rocked the UK high street. It’s positive to see that brands are looking to take advantage of globalised shopping habits that have emerged in recent years and establish their business in new and lucrative markets”, said Anthony Capano, managing director of International at Rakuten Marketing.

Net Imperative

How Russian PR firms plant stories in UK news outlets
Fortune reported on how, for a small fee, companies can pay Russian operatives to boost their image or smear their competitors, employing some of the same tactics used by the Kremlin to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election. According to one firm’s rate card, fees begin at $180 to plant an article on a website such as and rise to $600 to plant an article in a regional news publication like Northern Ireland's Love Belfast. Prices then rise to over $8,000 to place an article on Reuters, and just under $49,000 for the Financial Times. Paul Barrett, a New York University law professor who recently published a widely cited report urging technology companies to do more to police their platforms, described for-profit disinformation services as troubling. "The difficulty is these threats are morphing and proliferating", Barrett told Fortune. "My impression is that the tech companies are trying in good faith to protect their users, but the new threats are challenging even for someone with Facebook’s technological prowess".


Kekst CNC appoints Robbie Gibb as adviser
Kekst CNC appointed Sir Robbie Gibb, the former communications director to Theresa May, as a senior adviser. The former Downing Street spin doctor previously worked as head of BBC Westminster, overseeing the broadcaster’s political output across programmes including the Daily and Sunday Politics and the Andrew Marr Show. “At this time of political and corporate uncertainty, his recommendations and insight will be invaluable to our clients around the world”, said Kekst CNC partner Richard Campbell.
City AM

Senior Sainsbury’s exec appointed as WPP CFO
WPP appointed John Rogers, chief executive of Sainsbury’s-owned Argos, as its new chief financial officer replacing US-based Paul Richardson. He had been seen by analysts as a contender to succeed Mike Coupe as Sainsbury’s CEO. WPP stressed Mr Rogers’s digital experience revamping Argos since its take-over, and the breadth of his experience in his previous role as Sainsbury’s finance chief.
Evening Standard

Holyrood PR has announces raft of personnel changes
Edinburgh firm Holyrood PR appointed Toni Dowling and Emma Laurie as an account executive and PR assistant respectively. Ms Dowling joins the company from Indigo PR, while Ms Lourie makes the move from Muckle Media. The appointments coincide with the promotion of three members of staff at the outfit: Catriona Conway-Mortimer has been promoted to account manager, while Cat Quinn is made senior account executive alongside digital account executive Angie Muzyka.
The Scotsman


The Kingdom of Spin: Saudi Arabia’s PR machine
In 2017, Saudi Arabia’s information ministry announced a global campaign “to promote the changing face of KSA to the rest of the world”, with the aim of countering bad press from Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen and its blockade of Qatar. It also sought to publicise Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his plans to modernise the Kingdom and attract foreign investment. In 2018, Saudi Arabia spent more than $34m (£27m) on lobbying in the US alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The aim was “to present an image of KSA as striding towards reform, detoxify the government to reduce international political pressure, attract investment for economic growth, and open up foreign tourism”, according to Jonathan Hardy, professor of media and communications at the University of East London. However, the focus of the public relations offensive changed last October, following the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The aftermath saw the Crown Prince accused of direct involvement; London-based Freud’s and Pagefield Global Counsel announced they were no longer working with the country, in addition to Milltown Partners, Gladstone Place Partners, Glover Park Group, BGR, Portland Communications, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The strategy of the PR firms that continued to work with the Kingdom altered to one focusing on “soft power” such as sports, including the upcoming boxing rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz for the world heavyweight title in Riyadh.
The Independent


Duchess of Sussex sues Mail on Sunday, as Duke attacks tabloid press
The Duchess of Sussex began legal action against the Mail on Sunday over a claim that it unlawfully published one of her private letters. In a statement, the Duke of Sussex said he and Meghan were suing the newspaper over alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of data protection laws. While emphasising his respect for “objective, truthful reporting”, he added: “There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying”. In an opinion piece for The Spectator, Joanna Williams, associate editor of spiked, described his comments as “a disturbing attack on press freedom”, arguing that they ignore how “tabloids have changed over the past thirty years. Post-Leveson they are far more restrained in their coverage. There have been no paparazzi shots of baby Archie; no revelations about who his Godparents are”. The couple want press coverage only on their own “deferential, discreet and on-message terms”, she said. “Unfortunately for them this is not journalism – it’s called ‘public relations’”.
The Daily Telegraph  The Guardian  The Spectator


Clear Channel apologises to MP over foetus billboard campaign
Clear Channel apologised to Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, for running a campaign by the UK branch of US anti-abortion organisation the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. Ms Creasy is the subject of a targeted movement against her that calls itself “Stop Stella”. The agency said it took a neutral stance towards all advertising and had robust procedures in place to ensure that the content it runs complies with UK advertising codes. “While this campaign met these requirements, we accept that the content should have been scrutinised in greater detail and should not have been displayed,” a spokesperson said.
The Guardian

And finally…

Why Commons Speaker was criticised for ‘speaking like a Victorian squire’
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg criticised Commons speaker John Bercow last weekend, accusing him of bringing down the reputation of the House of Commons. The Leader of the House said Mr Bercow’s actions in recent weeks have damaged the standing of the Commons “to the lowest point in modern history”. His comments echoed those of former Tory MP Rob Wilson, who said in 2011 that Mr Bercow was a partisan and divisive figure, recounting that one MP said he “speaks in such an affected way, almost as if he were a Victorian squire addressing a group of particularly dim children". Another source suggested that “his unusual speaking manner is not a sign of a privileged upbringing. Instead, while working in a public relations firm in his 20s Mr Bercow was introduced to Jane Austen’s novels and started mimicking the style”.
Daily Express

This briefing has been prepared by Early Morning Media.  If you are interested in a customised bespoke news briefing for you or your client across any vertical, please contact

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