Not Hot: Amazon’s ironic patent

Amazon’s long been a go-to for people to online price compare while shopping at brick-and-mortars. Now, a new patent granted to the company could prevent people from doing just that inside Amazon’s own stores.

The patent, titled “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” details a mechanism where a retailer can intercept network requests like URLs and search terms that happen on its in-store Wi-Fi, then act upon them in various ways.

The document details in great length how a retailer like Amazon would use this information to its benefit. If, for example, the retailer sees you’re trying to access a competitor’s website to price check an item, it could compare the requested content to what’s offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright.

You can read the entire patent here.

Why it’s not hot?
Amazon’s patent also lets the retailer know your physical whereabouts, saying, “the location may be triangulated utilizing information received from a multitude of wireless access points.” The retailer can then use this information to try and upsell you on items in your immediate area or direct a sales representative to your location.

It’s the very sort of thing that Amazon itself protests. Amazon is among companies that signed ‘day of action’ against FCC’s planned rollback of net neutrality rules

The Winners and Losers of YouTube’s Brand Saftey Crisis

The ripple of the video giant’s woes has gotten so great that some have predicted the impact from major brands could cost YouTube $750 million. Seemingly, there are some that are happy when such a kink in the armor is exposed, but there are myriad of stakeholders, each with their own perspective. With that amount of money – as well as brand reputation and confidence – at stake there are going to be some winners and losers, and here they are:


Old-fashioned publishers

These are the classic media players who started losing their lunch the second Google started owning the internet. One could imagine publishers grinning ear to ear, thinking, “Told ya so. Quality content isn’t so easy.” They can can make a more convincing case that knowing the content and the audience actually is still important.

This issue can resurface a shift to high-quality, direct-bought content, where brands have the most control but pay a premium for it in some cases.


Anyone selling streaming ads is in a good position – including Sling, Dish and even TV networks. Hulu, Roku, TV networks and anyone with a digital video platform will be showing off their highly curated content. These new shows and programming will look pretty good to anyone with a heightened interest in knowing exactly where their messages will appear.

Tech tools & 3rd Party Verification Partners

Brands have called for digital platforms like Facebook and Google to clean up the media supply chain and to be more transparent with data. The brand safety issue on YouTube is yet another bit of leverage to force more cooperation.

Independent third parties like Integral Ad Science, Double Verify, Moat and others will find more brands at their doorsteps looking for ways to ensure their ads appear near quality content.

The agency

One of the most important roles for agencies was helping brands make sure their ads didn’t show up in the wrong place by intimately knowing the targeting, brand safety protections and best practices of each channel. Well, now those services are increasingly valuable.


Net neutrality

When the Trump administration makes further moves to undo net neutrality, as many anticipate based on current momentum repealing FCC consumer protections, Google’s ability to defend it in idealistic terms could be undermined by all the talk about serving ads on terrorist video.


It took a long time for programmatic to stop being a dirty word. Programmatic advertising was once considered the least controlled, lowest quality ad inventory at the lowest price. In part, brands could start to pull back from blind, untargeted buying without transparency.


YouTube has said that part of its solution is to implement stricter community standards, and that could mean more bannings and ad blocking from their videos, impacting their earnings.They could be quicker to cut a channel at the smallest offense now that brands are watching closely.

Advertisers still on YouTube – this is a tricky one to classify and it’s too early to say. We’ll have to see how the video platform reacts over time to increasing pressures to allow verification partners and data trackers access within the garden’s walls.

Why It’s (Still) Hot:

This topic will continue to be important to the brands we represent, aim to represent and even those far from us that are faced with the same decision to either stay the course or sit it out. There is a lot of money moving around on media plans, a lot of POV’s being routed and a lot of reps working overtime to reassure teams of buyers/planners that they are taking brand safety very seriously. Often it’s not the crisis that defines a company, but what they do in the aftermath. Some are hopeful that this is a definitive crack in the ‘walled garden’-  but even if it is not, we’re all hoping for a better, safer platform at the end of this tunnel…a world where once again clients can be irked by their premium pre-rolls showing up prefacing water skiing squirrels and dancing cat videos instead of terrorist rhetoric.

Our Next Item Up for Bid: Your Personal Data


The broadband privacy rules created by the FCC last year and vigorously debated last night are in grave danger after the Senate voted to repeal them this morning.

The rules, which forced internet service providers to get permission before selling your data, were overturned using the little-used Congressional Review Act (CRA). This is now being called “the single biggest step backwards in online privacy in many years” by those that spoke out against the repeal as well as the co-creator of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Sen. Ed Markey.

This is a big deal and a pretty bad idea for anyone even remotely concerned with privacy and limiting the already questionable practices of telecoms and ISPs.

Assuming that this resolution passes through the House, which seems likely at this point, your broadband and wireless internet service provider will have free reign to collect and sell personal data along to third parties. That information may include (but is not limited to) location, financial, healthcare and browsing data scraped from customers. As a result of the ruling, you can expect ISPs to begin collecting this data by default.

To play the devil’s advocate for a second, let’s assume there is some upside for companies in this deregulation: “You want the entrepreneurial spirit to thrive, but you have to be able to say ‘no, I don’t want you in my living room.’ Yes, we’re capitalists, but we’re capitalists with a conscience.” states Sen Ed Markey. But with the wireless and cable industries both operating as powerful oligopolies, consumers will be left with zero protection against price-gouging, no advocate for net neutrality, and as today demonstrates, far less control over their own data.

The broadband privacy rule, among other things, expanded an existing rule by defining a few extra items as personal information, such as browsing history. This information joins medical records, credit card numbers and so on as information that your ISP is obligated to handle differently, asking if it can collect it and use it.

There is Nothing Hot about this.

You can see the utility of the rule right away; browsing records are very personal indeed, and ISPs are in a unique position to collect pretty much all of it if you’re not actively obscuring it. Facebook and Google see a lot, sure, but ISPs see a lot too, and a very different set of data.

Why should they be able to aggregate it and sell it without your permission? Perhaps to gain competitive advantage or profit or to cull other aggregators, in order to better target ads or build a profile of you. The FCC thought not, and proposed the rule, part of which was rescinded by the new FCC leadership before it even took effect. *Sigh*

If consumers continue to lose trust in the platforms we employ to market our brands and begin to widely question their safety, security and data usage, we are in big trouble. We’re already challenged by a litany of brand safety concerns – bots, fraud, hackers, malware, viewability –  and solutions aimed to mitigate yet limit marketing effectiveness (ex. ad blocking) continue to gain momentum. While some of this is good digital evolution (flashback to needing a pop-up blocker just to endure an average online session), the lack of consumer trust quickly erodes to lack of brand trust and soon those left behind willingly (or unknowingly) allowing their data to be sold on the open market might not be the ones worth reaching.

ISPs can now sell your browsing history without permission, thanks to the Senate

Senate votes to allow ISPs to collect personal data without permission

FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules, Setting Stage For Legal Battle

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to regulate Internet service like a public utility, expanding the U.S. government’s oversight of a once lightly regulated business at the center of the country’s commercial and social activity.

The move marks a turn in the government’s approach to the Internet—from a hands off policy dating back two decades to encourage the Web’s growth to a more interventionist posture as commercial issues have multiplied.

So… what IS Net Neutrality?

The rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking Web traffic or charging websites for priority service.  For example, Comcast would probably like to promote NBC’s content over ABC’s to its Internet subscribers. That’s because Comcast and NBC are affiliated.  But net neutrality prevents Comcast from being able to discriminate, and it must display both NBC’s and ABC’s content evenly as a result. That means no slower load time for ABC, and definitely no blocking of ABC altogether.

In short, net neutrality creates an even playing field among content providers — both large and small — to the web. And it’s great for consumers because they can access everything they want online for no extra charge.

Net neutrality sounds nice. Who’s against it?

Right now, consumers control what they see online — not Internet access providers — and that’s thanks in large part to net neutrality.

Some big Internet providers like Verizon don’t like the idea of net neutrality. They feel they should be able to pick and choose what people see online and charge content providers accordingly. They feel net neutrality chokes their revenue potential.

Imagine if Verizon has tiers of Internet access. The highest paying customers could access everything on the web. The lowest paying customers could access only the information Verizon chooses to promote. Verizon could even charge web publishers like NBC and ABC to display their content over competitors.

Think of it like Google ads. When you type in a search on Google, the top links are all from advertisers who pay Google to put their messages up top. Getting rid of net neutrality means Verizon or Comcast could similarly choose which content to promote based on their own self-interests.

Why It’s Hot

Although kind of a dry subject area, this approval is a good thing for all of the little guys out there.  If small blossoming blogs and sites had to “pay the price” for their small size, etc. there would be fewer and fewer.

If the vote had gone the other way the industry would be changing dramatically.  Our internet providers would be the ones choosing what we can see online, not the other way around.  Many places that we currently run ads would no longer be…if internet providers slowed down their load times, etc. traffic could dry up.  This is a good thing for consumers.



Slow Down Internet

On Wednesday, you may have seen the loading icon on several of your favorite websites. Popular sites such as Netflix, Etsy, Foursquare and others took part in Internet Slowdown Day. Participating websites displayed this icon as raise awareness of the issue of net neutrality. The goal is to ultimately pressure the Federal Communications Commission to enact new rules to protect net neutrality.

Net Neurality generally means that a user will be exposed to and can go where he/she wants on the Internet without any interference from the broadband provider. Currently, advocates of net neutrality believe broadband providers are taking advantage of the lawless Internet by charging content providers whatever they want to have their content prioritized. The cable companies argue that they are playing fairly and work to keep the Internet open and therefore oppose additional regulations.

It should be noted that content providers are not the only ones speaking up about this issue. The FFC asked for public comments on the topic and the responses were overwhelming, crashing the site twice due to high traffic. So far more than 1.1 million comments have been submitted



Why This is Hot

The Internet is a tricky space to govern, if it should be governed at all. With varying communication laws in different countries, this is an ongoing conversation. Is the Internet a space that should be focused on capitalism and freedom of speech with no intervention from a governmental organization? If you agree, then how do you stop big companies like Verizon and Comcast from essentially “bullying” the content providers or is that all just part of the game? It is an interesting debate to follow and both users and providers will be affected by the outcome. If you are interested in weighing in on the situation, visit the FFC’s website here to submit your comments.

Read more here and here.

FCC Considers Allowing “Fast Lanes”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed new Internet regulations that would allow broadband providers to charge web companies extra to ensure that their content travels on online “fast lanes.” Large companies like Netflix & Skype, for example, would pay fees in order to provide the optimal experience to users, while smaller content producers (bloggers, start-ups, non-profits), who may not be able to afford the fees, would deliver a sub-optimal experience.

The implications are numerous. Audiences will naturally prefer the optimal user experience to the sub-optimal. Content and tools that are produced by small organizations, such as bloggers, start-ups and non-profits may fail to gain an audience, due to this preference. Consumption of digital media may become increasingly concentrated among several major networks. The internet may no longer be a platform where minority viewpoints find their way to the masses…where a college kid’s pet project can become the largest social platform in the world…where your silly cat can become the next 100MM hit wonder!

The legislation could stymie technological advancement, creativity and the arts, political and social progress…all things that start small and require an amplification engine to have the opportunity to thrive. If costs are passed to consumers, then consumers will no longer have equal access to the same content, which has implications for education and opportunity.


Why It’s Hot: Ironically, this proposal is part of a larger body of work, the new “Net Neutrality” regulations, which are meant to prevent discrimination and to ensure equal access to information for all, which means this is a very hot political issue (search “net neutrality” + “democracy”, “capitalism” or “civil liberties” to learn more). However, this hot topic could also be a game changer for us, since consumer media consumption will likely change (to a landscape that looks more like television?) and since increased content consumption costs may give rise to new, premium advertising and sponsorship opportunities.