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This fall, TV networks, streamers and ad buyers will tune into the return of TV



This fall, TV networks, streamers and ad buyers will tune into the return of TV

The streaming wars are giving way to the screen grab. The final four months of 2021 will offer a test to see what the new normal looks like for the future of TV as the competition for people’s attentions heightens — and flattens.

“I feel like this is the first year, going into Q4, where the definition of television has truly expanded [to span] linear, digital and streaming,” said Kim Kelleher, president of commercial revenue and partnerships at AMC Networks.

This fall through the fourth quarter, streaming services as well as TV networks appear set to be operating at full strength, having refilled their programming pipelines following last year’s in-person production hiatus. Meanwhile, audiences are expected to be returning to the office and school, which can take them away from their TVs and reestablish their pre-pandemic routines. In light of these normalizing dynamics, executives at TV networks, streaming services and advertising agencies are on the lookout to see what this period of time indicates what has and has not changed after the past year and a half of the pandemic.

“What does the return of quality content and traditional scheduling mean for viewership as a whole? Do things reset to the norm or have we lost audience?” said Geoff Calabrese, chief investment officer for North America at Omnicom Media Group.

Packed programming

In a widespread bid to gain audiences, the fourth quarter of 2021 is slated to see TV networks and streaming services return to strength in the historically strongest period of the year. Unlike last year’s weakened Q4 — with the pandemic disrupting production on TV and streaming shows and upsetting the schedules of major sports — networks and streamers seem to have a packed programming lineup in store.

“This summer we have been as busy, if not busier, than ever in both production and development,” said Laura Michalchyshyn, chief creative officer and co-president of content at Blue Ant Studios, which produces shows and movies for the likes of NBCUniversal’s Peacock and streaming service CuriosityStream. Each of the company’s various production firms has 12 to 15 shows in production, she said.

On traditional TV, broadcast networks will have primetime schedules resembling pre-pandemic times (that is, plenty of Dick Wolf-produced fare and reboots). The NFL and college football are also set to play games with fans in stands and hopefully minimal cancellations. “Everything is going to be full force,” said one agency executive of the fall TV’s live sports lineup. Meanwhile, cable networks like AMC Networks will have flagship shows, such as “The Walking Dead” and two spin-off series, set to air. “We have been planning toward this fall in earnest in a very big way,” Kelleher said.

On the streaming side, companies are similarly loading up. Netflix, for example, is counting on a redoubled programming pipeline in the back half of the year to re-accelerate its subscriber growth, forecasting the service would add 1.3 million more new subscribers in the third quarter of 2021 than in Q3 2020. “Once we get into Q4, what we would expect is as we get through, hopefully, that tail end of the COVID choppiness, we get into that strong strength of slate. We get to a kind of a high seasonal period for us,” said Netflix CFO Spencer Neumann during the company’s latest earnings call. Netflix isn’t the only streaming service to be expecting a strong end of the year.

“Seasonally speaking, Q4 is very strong for streaming,” said Devin Emery, chief product officer and evp of content strategy at CuriosityStream. The streaming service, which specializes in factual programming like documentaries, saw its subscriber base increase by 25% between the first and second quarters of 2021 to reach 20 million subscribers and projects a business boost in Q4. “We expect increases in engagement over the pandemic to be catalyzed by the seasonality in the second half of the year,” Emery said.

War for attention

Even if the overall pie of TV and streaming viewership grows in the fourth quarter, though, companies could see the surplus of streamers cut into their slices. Just as the fall TV season is no longer an arena limited to traditional TV companies, the likes of Netflix is not only in competition with traditional TV networks and streaming services like Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu and Peacock but also with digital video platforms like YouTube.

Google’s digital video platform seems emblematic of how the definition of and market for TV has expanded during the pandemic. Not only were individual video creators in prime position to adapt to the pandemic’s production impacts — considering that many shoot in home studios and as they go about their everyday lives — but YouTube’s audience has also settled into watching those videos on the same screen as Netflix and traditional TV.

In June, 120 million people streamed YouTube videos on a TV screen, compared to the platform’s 100 million monthly TV viewer average in 2020, according to Google parent Alphabet’s latest earnings report. That has opened up another front in the streaming wars.

“With YouTube gaining [in viewership on TV screens to equal Netflix’s watch time], Netflix is not in the pole position as they have been before. We’ve also seen how the other streaming services have nipped away from Netflix’s growth,” said Eunice Shin, who has consulted for companies including Disney, Warner Bros. and NBCUniversal and is a partner at consulting firm Prophet. “So overall, given the competitive landscape of streaming across the board and because of the driving demand behind TV ad spend, we’re seeing a lot of people focused on these next few months as being big TV moments.”

Advertising pressure

On the advertising front, this fall and fourth quarter will test whether TV networks are able to make good on delivering the audiences they have promised to advertisers. That test will span their linear networks as well as their streaming services and could spur more money to move to streaming-only sellers.

The story coming out of this year’s annual upfront negotiations was how TV networks, once again, secured ad price increases from advertisers despite the continued erosion of linear viewership. The networks netted those increases because advertisers have yet to find a medium as cost-efficient for reaching a large, concurrent audience and because there’s some belief that the networks’ linear and streaming viewership may rebound. 

“Those decisions were with our understanding and hope that the fourth-quarter calendar would return to normal. Not that it would all of a sudden reverse-course on the trends that have taken root in 2020 and 2021,  but that it would stem the drastic decline in linear television to make the overall streaming landscape more competitive,” said a second agency executive.

However, while there’s hope, there is also prudence. “I’m looking to see delivery. I’m looking to hold media partners more accountable, probably more than they ever have been, to their [viewership] guarantees,” Calabrese said. 

To be clear, the networks have taken steps to shore themselves up against any audience delivery shortcomings. 

On traditional TV, network owners like A+E Networks pitched advertisers on expanding their audience groupings to include the older viewers who are most likely to be tuning in. “Almost two-thirds of our business is now going to be some form of expanded demo,” said Peter Olsen, president of ad sales at A+E Networks.

Additionally, TV networks struck upfront deals with advertisers that give them greater flexibility to deliver ads across their linear TV networks as well as their streaming properties. Advertisers that agreed to these so-called “fluidity” deals are more likely to see their viewership guarantees fulfilled. Not that that is guaranteed, though.

“The network groups are hedging their bets to make sure they’re supporting both ways consumers can get their content. However, is there enough content to support both? That’s the biggest unknown we have,” said the second agency executive.

Given all the unknowns and uncertainty surrounding the expanded TV industry, perhaps the only assurance is the expectation that the final months of 2021 will offer up some indication of how the future of TV has and has not changed.

“It’s the closest thing we’re going to get for now to people’s normal lives, the rhythm of the calendar. I don’t think we’ve had anything close to normal in a long time,” said one TV network executive.

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The 2021 Digiday Awards Shortlist



The 2021 Digiday Awards Shortlist

New audiences, inclusivity and reemergence from quarantine became the backbeat of this year’s Digiday Awards shortlist

In what is still a time of uncertainty, with some parts of the world navigating a great reopening and other parts grappling with COVID-19 variants and limited vaccine access (or adoption), the nature of consumer behavior is constantly changing. However, digital media and marketing persist, and the nature of the ecosystems in which they work is now a part of the everyday fabric of the job. As always, the creative teams that drive campaigns for publishers and advertisers adapt. 

The latest installment of the Digiday Awards acknowledges the evolution of an industry, one that has not only transformed because of the pandemic and quarantines but one that has shifted in other profound ways as well. The sweeping calls for advocacy and inclusion have also shaped what the Digiday Awards judges have before them, in October 2021, as does an ongoing industry-wide shift to represent — and reach — younger demographics in the developing spaces they work and play (specifically, mobile and online games). 

Finalists found their gamers in 2021 campaigns

Take, for example, Excedrin, a double Digiday Awards finalist for Best Multi-Platform campaign and Best Strategy Pivot. Working with Weber Shandwick, the pain reliever’s program in 2021—  “Game Over for Headaches” — broke through to a new audience by leveraging influential streamers in the gaming space. Excedrin partnered with Twitch to create original content that spoke authentically to gamers. The outcome for the campaign was heightened earned coverage and positive consumer attention, and ultimately “Game Over” became the start of meaningful business results. 

To be sure, Mtn Dew is no stranger to gamers, with its “Game Fuel” slogan securely a part of console culture. As the PepsiCo brand worked with OMD, the media agency fused the caffeinated beverage with game influencer messaging that foregrounded authenticity and premium content. John Cena, professional wrestler and actor, helmed the launch of Mtn Dew Major Melon, the brand’s first new flavor in more than a decade, driving interest in the runup to the 2021 Super Bowl and highlighting in-game sweepstakes across every major social media channel. The campaign drove significant sales in Q1 and garnered OMD triple-finalist status in the Digiday Awards — Best Use of Influencer Marketing, Best Product Launch Campaign and Most Innovative Media Agency. 

Brands and media companies maintained the inclusivity beat

From deodorants to swimwear, from soft drinks to cinema, advertisers, media companies and their partners continued to push for expanded representation in their 2021 campaigns.

Degree showcased inclusive design that made its deodorant product accessible to people with different upper-limb abilities and differently sighted individuals. Their campaign told truthful and courageous stories and highlighted how other brands and companies could successfully implement similar changes to their product designs. The ‘Degree Inclusive’ campaign is shortlisted for Best Product Launch Campaign.

Amazon Studios connected with Imprint Projects and put voter suppression in the spotlight in 2021. ‘All In for Voting’ included documentary films, an experiential roadshow, and a multi-platform awareness campaign. It touched down at 55 brand-hosted voter registration events and 21 outdoor film screenings in disenfranchised communities. The effort earned Amazon and Imprint a spot among the finalists for Best Multi-Platform campaign.

Body inclusivity and alternatives to hyper-sexualized swimwear were the driving themes behind Summersalt’s ‘Every Body is a Summersalt Body’ campaign. Featuring two dozen accomplished women, the messaging showcased a spectrum of sizes, different sizes, backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, and sexualities to demonstrate that every single body belongs in a suit of its choosing. Summersalt is shortlisted for best Branding Campaign B2C in the Digiday Awards.

Finally, The Coca-Cola Company activated its Sprite brand to make a statement supporting social justice and Black Lives Matter. Partnering with Havas Atlanta, Moxi, and industry influencers, the program gave $50,000 to influencers to give to the causes of their choice. The brand also hosted a series of virtual performances by artists called “Sprite Way” — the shows also gave back, donating funds to independent performance venues via Save Our Stages. The campaign stands among finalists for Best Strategy Pivot.

As cities and travel reopened, campaigns centralized support and safety

With storefront businesses deeply impacted during quarantines, as HBO Max brought on-site film productions back online, they did so with an eye on helping local vendors benefit from having their locales featured on audiences’ screens. Dropping giant purple pins with QR codes near the stores filmed on and around locations for its film “In the Heights,” customers could scan the codes and redeem rewards from the local businesses. Complete with a micro-site to help people find the pins, the campaign wrapped with a spot on the Digiday Awards shortlist for Best Multi-Platform Campaign.

Expedia knows travel, and as the world cautiously returns to the roads, the air and destinations, the full-service travel site provided inspiration and tips to give travelers confidence in their plans. They also replicated superstar Joe Jonas’s hand and distributed 500 of the exact replicas for those who might need a little actual hand-holding on their first trip after quarantine. The campaign, in turn, handed Expedia a finalist spot for Best PR Campaign.

Check out the full shortlist below as we wait for the judges’ decisions on all the Digiday Awards finalists.

Best Creative

Tapjoy and Bully Pulpit Interactive – The Biden/Harris 2020 Presidential Campaign

Comedy Central

Verizon and Madwell – The Reset

Land Rover and Outside


Known and Shift4 – Inspiration4

Best Collaboration

SHISEIDO and Dentsu Inc. – “Camellia” The brand film we didn’t shoot

Pepsi, NFL and Roc Nation – Super Bowl LV Halftime Show

Genero and Nespresso – Nespresso Talents

Fox News Media and Tunnel to Towers Foundation – Memorial Day Special Branded Content

INNOCEAN USA and Hyundai Motor America – The Un-Adventurers

Digital Dominance and ResMed – Changing lives with every breath

Best Use of Social

Nomadic Agency – Capcom Resident Evil Village Alternate Reality Game

Courageous Studio – AT&T Forces of Change

Initiative – Gen Z chooses Rexona

eos products and Mischief @ No Fixed Address – Cooch Blessings Campaign

Febreze and M Booth – Bedazzling Millennials with a Kardashian Brand Fan

Campfire and The INKEY List – #AskINKEY Campaign

Best Use of Mobile


Tapjoy and Bully Pulpit Interactive – The Biden/Harris 2020 Presidential Campaign

Aki Technologies and Family Dollar

Insider – Rebranding with New Mobile App Launch

(General Mills) Nature Valley & Mindshare – Sensory Ads by RUMBLE


Best Use of Video

Known and TikTok – It Starts On TikTok

CarMax – “Pinch Me”

TV Land


XX Artists – Ancestry’s Kidsplaining Series

Edelman and TAZO Tea (Unilever)

Best Use of Influencer Marketing – NEW

MG Empower and Bumble – #MyLoveIsBlackLove

Collab, OMD and PepsiCo – Late Night Tastebuds

eos products and Mischief @ No Fixed Address – Cooch Blessings Campaign

Zeno Group and Crest – Crest Whitening’s Beauty Breakthrough

MTN DEW GAME FUEL – 2020 Gaming Influencer Campaign

Known and TikTok – It Starts On TikTok

Best Product Launch Campaign

Barbarian and Fenty Beauty –  Fenty Eau De Parfum Ghost Stores

NYX Professional Makeup – Shine Loud High Shine Lip Color Launch

Accompany Creative – Launch of Nespresso Premium Single-Origin Coffee Portfolio

Signia & Griffin360 – Signia Active X hearing aid launch

Degree – Launch of Degree Inclusive

OMD and PepsiCo – Launch of Mountain Dew Major Melon

Best Branding Campaign B2B

Insider and ING – Transforming Business/Changemakers’ Playbook campaign

Oracle – Wall Street Journal Brand Advertising Campaign

Lycored – Nourishing connections

IDG and Domo – State of the CIO Data Dashboard


Wistia – Show Business

Best Branding Campaign B2C

Movement Strategy and Klarna

SEEN Connects and Simply Be – Fit For An Icon


Pepsi – Match Me if You Can


Summersalt – “Every Body Is A Summersalt Body” Campaign

Best Multi-Platform Campaign


HBO Max – On Location

Movement Strategy and Looney Tunes

Evoke and Foundation Consumer Healthcare, Plan B One-Step

Imprint Projects and Amazon Studios – “All In For Voting”

Weber Shandwick & Excedrin (GSK Consumer Healthcare) – Game Over for Headaches

Best Search Campaign

Goodway Group and Anytime Fitness

Investis Digital and Happy Valley

In The Know Glossary

Terakeet and Leading Mortgage/Lending Company

January Digital for David’s Bridal


Best Strategy Pivot – NEW

American Century Investments – #ACCFantasyGolf

Weber Shandwick & Excedrin (GSK Consumer Healthcare) – Game Over for Headaches

Havas Atlanta, Social Center (The Coca-Cola Company – North America), Moxie

Warm Street



Best Audio Campaign

Edelman & Good Humor (Unilever)

Velocity, ViacomCBS and LEGO® – Lego Friends Podcast

Nickelodeon and iHeartRadio – Avatar: Braving the Elements podcast

CBS News – My Life Of Crime Podcast

In The Know – We Should Talk

Best PR Campaign

Edelman & Dove (Unilever)

Expedia & Zeno Group – Lend A Helping Hand to Anxious Travelers

Weber Shandwick, Chicago – “Swim Heard Round the World”

Weber Shandwick, Chicago – American Pecans – Super Safe Pecan Debate

Movers+Shakers & e.l.f. Cosmetics – Chipotle Mexican Grill & DayOne Agency

The Martin Agency – UPS and J Balvin #JuntosImparables

Most Innovative Publisher

The Dodo




In The Know

Courageous Studios

Best Gaming/esports Campaign

In The Know Bowl

SHISEIDO, Dentsu Inc. – “Camellia” The brand film we didn’t shoot

BEN Group, Electronic Arts, and Velan Studios – Launch of “Knockout City”

Viral Nation – PUBG MOBILE Version Update Launch

Edelman & Edgewell Personal Care (Schick)

Enthusiast Gaming and TikTok – TikTok Gamers Greatest Talent

Most Innovative Media Agency


Kyra Media

Canvas Worldwide

Sela, a PCA Group Company, and OZNaturals


OMD Worldwide

Most Innovative Brand

Pepsi – PepsiCo Beverages North America

Reverb – The Pedal Movie

Lycored – Nourishing Connections



Known and Shift4 – Inspiration4

Most Innovative Technology Platform



STN Video


Intowow Yieldbooster


Most Innovative Independent Agency



Imprint Projects

Klick Health

We are Rosie – Welcome To A New Way To Work

SEEN Connects

Leader of the Year

OS Studios – John Higgins, CEO

SEEN Connects – Sedge Beswick, Founder and Managing Director

Bev – Alix Peabody, Founder and CEO

Collectively – Ryan Stern, CEO

PepsiCo Beverages, North America – Greg Lyons, CMO

HUM Nutrition – Walter Faulstroh, Co-founder & CEO

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Adobe Photoshop finally comes to the browser, and Chromebooks



Adobe Photoshop finally comes to the browser, and Chromebooks

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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The Rundown: Amazon steps up its courtship of brand advertising dollars at Unboxed



The Rundown: Amazon steps up its courtship of brand advertising dollars at Unboxed

October 26, 2021 by Max Willens

As it continues to hunt for brand advertisers’ dollars, Amazon will try to act more like a social network while continuing to think like a marketplace.

The ecommerce giant today announced a clutch of new additions to its advertising ecosystem at Unboxed, the company’s third annual advertising conference. Many of the changes seem explicitly aimed at helping advertisers who are focused on driving brand awareness or consideration, rather than strictly sales. 

The key details:

  • The company launched Brand Metrics, a “self-service measurement solution” that allows advertisers to track how many people are considering their brand and how they stack up to competitors. It also launched a brand lift tool that allows marketers to create studies within Amazon DSP, then send them to a panel of opted-in Amazon shoppers. 
  • Amazon is also expanding the availability of its marketing cloud to all of its DSP customers. Those customers now have the ability to upload pseudonymized data sets to query alongside Amazon ad campaign data, using either custom queries or by choosing from a library of queries Amazon supplies DSP users.  
  • The Unboxed announcement included several ad formats that could help performance marketers too, including more interactive ads. For example, customers that hear an ad on Amazon Music through any Alexa-enabled device can ask the assistant software to send them more information about the product advertised; customers that see an ad on IMDBtv through Fire TV can now ask Amazon to send them more information.
  • Advertisers can now also buy sponsored display ads within Twitch livestreams.

Seeking trust signals

Many of the changes Amazon is making seem designed to boost its customers’ engagement with ads and brands.

In addition to the new ad products, Amazon’s announcement also included fresh promotion of its “follow” button, which Amazon began testing about six months ago in the U.S. Customers that follow brands within Amazon get notifications when the brand does things like stream live — brands may also have deals for followers surfaced to them on Amazon’s homepage. Amazon said there are 20 million follow relationships in place within its ecosystem; as of 2019, there were more than 2 million brands selling on Amazon, according to Marketplace Pulse.

While Amazon will need more people to actually begin following brands, it potentially solves for problems that many kinds of advertisers have long had with Amazon as a marketplace. “What Amazon does really well is drive down customer acquisition cost, but their lifetime value is atrocious,” said Ryan Flannagan, the CEO of Nuanced Media, a performance-focused media agency. “Playing with these types of things could improve that.”

If follower features and follower counts become more visible within Amazon over time, it should help customers and advertisers begin to think about brands within the platform differently.

“They’re layering on these brand metrics because they also want another gauge of credibility,” Flannagan said. “Right now, [shopping on] Amazon is a price play. If it becomes a brand play, that changes things.”

The store(front) of the future

The addition of the follow button also opens the door for merchants and brands to start treating their storefronts differently. “It’ll allow them to treat Amazon stores like their websites,” said Peter Vasilakos, director of digital marketplaces at Assembly. “They’re going for a social approach.”

Amazon’s embrace of social sends it back in the direction that large tech platforms are heading, albeit from the opposite direction, with Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are all adding more native commerce opportunities, and large retailers, including Walmart, looking to do more to grow their advertising ecosystems. “Everything is turning into a marketplace,” Vasilakos said. 


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