vertical lineApril: Week in Review

Apr 25, 2023 | From the Breakroom

By Carson Schatzman, Senior Copywriter


Each Monday, Athena employees receive a recap of important news stories from the past week. On Thursdays, our morning meeting is dedicated to a quiz testing our ability to retain the information. A free lunch is the reward for the winning team. We’re a competitive group, and the quizzes bring out that spirit. Over time a number of our clients have requested our weekly review as well, so we’ve begun to share it weekly now. See below for what we’re paying attention to and why.

Hootsuite’s AI Content Creator

The social media management firm Hootsuite recently launched OwlyWriter AI, a tool designed to solve its customers’ content creation hardships, according to AI Magazine. The AI requires very little information to generate social post ideas and captions, saving time and boosting efficiency.

When There’s a Need… Natalie Williams, Hootsuite’s Chief Product Officer, says that nearly one-third of their customers indicate “difficulty coming up with content ideas” as their biggest challenge. OwlyWriter AI is a solution to the “sea of content sameness” that many creators felt stuck in.

Capabilities: Hootsuite outlines five ways its new AI can power social content creation.

    • Identify and recreate top-performing posts without duplication.
    • Generate captions tailored to platform, audience, and copy-writing style.
    • Act as an extension of the creative team by turning simple prompts into content ideas and post options.
    • Produce topical social posts simply by supplying a link to a thought-provoking blog or article.
    • Tap into popular holidays and generate celebratory content to drive engagement.

Why it Matters: OwlyWriter AI is the latest enterprise implementation of Generative AI, which is slowly seeping into different industries. Other major developments include Meta’s plan to introduce an AI that can help its clients create ads and Amazon’s Bedrock that seeks to integrate AI with Cloud.

Bud Light Faces Boycott

While social media calls to boycott brands haven’t produced the intended effect recently, conservative voices seem to be making an impact in response to Bud Light’s recent partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Measuring the Sentiments:

  • Bud Light’s presence on social media skyrocketed from 20,400 mentions to 1.08 million mentions in the days before and after the partnership.
  • Sales fell 10.7% in the week following the Mulvaney video, while rival Molson Coors saw a temporary lift to its stock price.
  • Brand impression improved among millennial, Gen X and Gen Z consumers, but it was offset by criticisms from male, older, and conservative consumers, leading to a decline in overall approval score.

Research Shows: Social media boycotts stem from consumers’ increasing expectations for brands to take sociopolitical stances, but they usually fizzle out before they can deal real damage. This phenomenon is called the intention-behavior gap, according to associate professor at Cornell University’s Dyson School for Applied Economics and Management Jura Liaukonyte. The intention-behavior gap refers to the tendency for consumers to express a belief rather than change their behavior to reflect that belief.

Bud Light Caves In: In this case, however, the backlash appeared to have produced the intended effect. Over the weekend, Bud Light’s parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev placed the two executives responsible for the Mulvaney campaign on leave.


Data Collection and Experiential Marketing

Incorporating first-party data collection in your experiential marketing event can help a maintain connection and extend your activation beyond the day of the event, according to Marketing Brew.

Why it Matters: Pre- and post-event data collection can help brands identify consumers who have a natural curiosity about the brand. Experiential marketing that makes an impact should be built around customers’ on-site immersion and sense of excitement.

Tips for Success:

  • A contact-based activity, like a photo booth where people enter their email to receive the photo, can be a simple but powerful touchpoint.
  • Exchanges, like receiving a gift or sample after signing up for newsletter, should be based around fun rather than the transaction itself.
  • Integrate data-capture moments in casual, non-salesy ways to avoid disrupting the event.
  • To build customer loyalty, avoid one-time incentives in exchange for information and focus on long-term connections over instant gratification.
  • Be transparent about how customer data will be used to build trust and avoid potential pushback later.
  • Customize your follow-up messaging to connect the customer with the experience and event.

The Bottom Line: Customers know their data is valuable, so brand efforts to gather data should be based around thoughtful, fun, organic moments.

Best of the Rest

Did you know? About half of US adults said they’ve listened to a podcast in the past year, and over a quarter of the listeners said they’ve bought something that was promoted or discussed on a podcast. Marketing Brew dives into some interesting podcast stats that marketers should be aware of. [Marketing Brew]

According to Open AI’s CEO Sam Altman, the research strategy that gave birth to ChatGPT is played out. Altman claims that progress in the field will not come from making the models bigger nor feeding them more data. It is unclear where future advances will come from. [WIRED]

YouTube TV expects significant subscriber growth after acquiring NFL Sunday Ticket for around $2.5 billion a year; football fans can get the gameday staple for $100 off if they also subscribe to YouTube TV. [Forbes]

Due to increased safety scrutiny and reduced shipping volume, Union Pacific saw profits decline in the first quarter of 2023, but improved weather and a replenished workforce should mean better days ahead for the railroad giant. [WSJ]

April 17

AI Probes Underway

Between tech investor Ron Conway’s corporate brain-trust meeting to discuss potential policy solutions and the NITA’s formal request for comment (RFC) for AI accountability measures, public and private sectors are showing a greater degree of appreciation for regulating AI growth and application.

Europe Takes Actions: The flurry of regulatory measures follows the Italian government’s decision in March to temporarily ban OpenAI from collecting data from and providing services to users in the county. The company must first respond to concerns flagged by data regulators. Regulators in France, Germany, and Ireland have reached out to their counterparts in Italy for information on their findings.

Washington Follows: NITA frames its Tuesday RFC as an opportunity to gather insights on AI risks and inform Biden Administration regulations.

    • Comparing AI systems to food and cars, NITA indicates that companies should take responsibility in ensuring the safety of their AI products before releasing them to the public.
    • Comments will be due 60 days from the release of the RFC.

Investors Weigh In: Ron Conway, a legendary Silicon Valley angel investor, reportedly invited leaders from Google, Microsoft, and Stability AI among others to a meeting last Wednesday to discuss how to safely move forward with AI advancement. This follows shortly after a public letter calling for an AI pause, headed by Elon Musk and signed by a number of industry experts.

The Bottom Line: Given these recent actions from both the public and private sectors, the U.S. appears to be on track to establish shared standards and best practices around AI activity.

Introducing Max: TAFKA HBO

Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) recently announced that its streaming service HBO Max will be known as “Max” starting May 23, Deadline reports. The rebrand combines content from HBO Max and Discovery in to one destination and signals the company’s strategy shift for competing in the streaming landscape.

“Rendezvous with Destiny” is how WBD’s CEO David Zaslav introduces the Max rebrand to ramp up excitement for the company’s future, calling 2023 a year “to build Warner Bros. Discovery into the next century.” 2023 marks the centennial of Warner Bros and the first year since its spin-off deal from AT&T to merge with Discovery.

Streaming Landscape: WBD leadership points to the crowded state of the streaming industry and positions the rebrand as a move to streamline and simplify the viewing experience “in this era of peak confusion.” Zaslov also highlights keeping the subscriber churn rate low as a key priority – a mounting challenge for players in the industry.

Strategy Pivot: At the time of HBO Max’s launch in 2020, there was an incentive to keep “HBO” at the center of the branding due to its association with blockbuster series such as Game of Thrones and the legacy of HBO Network. With Max, WBD hopes to shed the “high-brow” reputation associated with HBO’s programming and appeal to a wider audience.


The Emerging Entertainment Landscape

Generational differences in entertainment content are becoming more pronounced as millennials and Gen Z increasingly prefer video games and user-generated content (UGC) over TV shows and movies, according to Fast Company.

New Media Needs:

  • Deloitte’s 17th Digital Media Trends Survey found younger generations enjoy video games and UGC for the feeling of “social connection and a sense of immersion.”
  • Half of consumers say UGC helps them discover new products, and 40% say they’re more likely to purchase a new product after watching a content creator’s review.
  • Younger generations are looking for an “interdependent tapestry of entertainment” that combines video, social, gaming, and music.
  • Streaming services are feeling the pressure as consumers seek more than just entertainment from their digital experiences and suffer “streaming fatigue” over the costs and number of their subscriptions.

The Bottom Line: Generation Z grew up in a digitally connected world, and it’s “likely that their behaviors are an early glimpse of connected and immersed generations that follow them.” Connecting with consumers in a “world that blends physical and digital domains” will require understanding a growing desire for immersive, interwoven entertainment experiences.

Best of the Rest

More Big Techs are off to the AI races – Twitter has purchased 10k Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), that will reportedly be used to train a large language model (LLM) to create sophisticated content on its own, while Amazon is introducing its own LLM, Bedrock, that developers can use to enhance their software with AI-generated texts. [Business Insider / CNBC]

A U.S. Labor Department report shows that inflation rate eased 0.5% in March to its slowest rate in nearly two years, though the Fed cautions that the recent banking crisis could lead to a “mild” recession later this year. [Washington Post]

Meta and ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, are on a buying spree and in a bidding war as the two companies compete to acquire coveted virtual reality app developers. [WSJ]

Happy Tax Day! The IRS itself was recently audited (yes, really), and findings revealed some serious IT issues driving up taxpayer costs and frustrations. Last week, the IRS published its Inflation Reduction Act Strategic Operating Plan, and the agency plans to spend big on modernizing their digital technology. [WSJ]

April 3

NFL Partners with RedBird

The NFL struck a deal with private equity firm RedBird to launch new media platform EverPass Media, which will distribute NFL Sunday Ticket to bars, restaurants, hotels and other commercial venues, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Staying In-House YouTube recently won the consumer streaming rights to Sunday Ticket – a subscription for out-of-market NFL games – with a $2 billion annual deal, but the commercial rights remained up for grabs. Rather than dealing in another outside company, the NFL has elected to keep those commercial rights “in-house.”

Sundays are Just the Start: EverPass aims to broker similar global licensing deals with other leagues. “Our goal is to create a new model for commercial sports rights distribution around the globe, and we believe that this is just the beginning of an exciting journey,” said EverPass executive chairman Derek Chang.

Business Outlook: The new venture comes as major media firms are investing heavily in sports content. But EverPass seeks to differentiate itself as a single sports content destination for commercial establishments. As a result, EverPass doesn’t plan to compete with YouTube or other consumer streaming services but rather with major commercial players like DirecTV who currently offers Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” and Apple’s MLS and MLB packages.

A Plead for AI Pause

With “Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter,” leading tech and AI experts have called for a six month hiatus on further AI development to set safety standards for the industry, according to The Wall Street Journal.

An Overview: The letter was led by the non-profit Future of Life Institute, of which Elon Musk is an external advisor.

  • Rather than a hard stop on all AI activity, the letter asks companies to temporarily stop training AI systems more powerful than Open AI’s GPT-4.
  • The letter says the six-month pause should be used to develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols that are audited and overseen by third party experts.
  • The letter calls on governments to step in if the pause is not self-imposed by AI labs.

How’d We Get Here: The release of Open AI’s ChatGPT in late 2022 opened the floodgates to a new wave of AI seemingly overnight. While powered by similar large language modeling to that of their AI predecessors, this new wave of AI has come with eerily human-like interactions and constant one’s upmanship from tech companies.

What Now? Experts agree that a self- or government enforced pause is unlikely.

  • Elon Musk among them tweeted AI developers “will not heed this warning, but at least it was said.”
  • Industry leaders OpenAI, Google and Microsoft have yet to respond to the letter.

A New Tag Team in the Ring

Endeavor Group Holdings is seeking to realize their global sports vision by uniting the UFC and the WWE into a new entertainment powerhouse, Barron’s reports.

In This Corner…

  • Endeavor, led by Ari Emanuel, has held a controlling stake in the Ultimate Fighting Championship league since 2016.
  • World Wrestling Entertainment, whose flagship event WrestleMania just took place last weekend, saw the return of longtime executive Vince McMahon after a tumultuous exit from the organization in 2022.
  • Forbes has a timeline of events leading up to the sale, including two Board of Director votes in the span 8 days, first unanimously against and then unanimously in favor of McMahon’s return to the WWE.

Broader Context: As traditional TV loses out to streaming options, live sports are increasingly sought after as a way to bring viewers to programming in predictable ways. Alphabet recently purchased 7-year residential rights to the NFL’s Sunday Ticket, and sports broadcast rights are more valuable than ever, according to Bloomberg.

What’s Next: WWE shares will be purchased about $106 per share – a premium of 21% as of Monday morning after the news broke on Sunday – and the new company, still unnamed, will trade under the symbol TKO. The deal is expected to close at the end of 2023 after regulatory approval.

Best of the Rest

Lyft’s co-founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer, are stepping down from their respective positions in the company. This comes as the company struggles to compete with Uber. [NYT]

Audiobooks may become the next frontier for advertisers. Audiobook revenue has climbed steadily since the start of the pandemic, and platforms such as Audible and Spotify are exploring advertising opportunities. [Marketing Brew]

Pepsi released a nostalgic new logo. [Print Mag]

Two groups have emerged with fully-financed bids of $6 billion to purchase the Washington Commanders; the sale, which may be locked in before the NFL Draft, would mark the most expensive US sports franchise sale in history. [MarketWatch]

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