Morning Consult Brands: What’s Ahead & Week in Review


Essential marketing and PR news & intel to start your day.
April 2, 2023
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Welcome back to the Sunday edition of the Morning Consult Brands newsletter, and happy March Madness Final Four (and Major League Baseball Opening Weekend) to all those who celebrate!


While both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments have delivered strong viewership numbers so far, the women’s tourney has done so in an especially notable fashion. 


More than 1 million people watched each of the women’s four Elite Eight games last weekend, with the Louisville-Iowa matchup on ESPN drawing nearly 2.5 million viewers. That is significantly higher than what any single NBA game broadcast on the network has garnered this season.


Between March 17 and March 27, women’s March Madness accounted for 1.33% of all linear TV watch-time, second only to the men’s event, according to new data from Inscape, Vizio Inc.’s TV data division. On Mondays, the lone day in that period without direct competition between the two tournaments, the women’s event was TV’s top show, even while up against popular programs like “The Voice” and “The Bachelor.” said the women’s tournament delivered 1.66 billion household TV ad impressions through the Elite Eight, marking a 60% year-over-year increase — and the brands that bought-in are reaping the rewards. Last year, the NCAA itself was the most-seen advertiser during the event (by share of ad impressions). But this year, Buick (6.23%) and Nissan (5.87%) — both of which made significant women’s ad buys — are leading the way. 


Additional insights from Entertainment Data Oracle (EDO) Inc.’s Ad EnGage platform, which measures the increase in online search activity for a brand in the minutes immediately following the airing of a TV ad, show that viewers watching the women’s Elite Eight were 58% more likely to engage online with the brands and products advertised during the programming than the primetime average. This engagement rate was actually 3% better than that of the equivalent round of the men’s tournament — a rare occurrence. 


Before we look at the week ahead, as always, if you’re feeling adventurous, take our MCIQ quiz to test your knowledge of the latest Morning Consult data covering trends in business, entertainment, sports, politics and more. 


Onto next week…


What’s Ahead

The Interactive Advertising Bureau hosts its Public Policy & Legal Summit in Washington D.C. on Monday.

This annual gathering brings together data and privacy leaders across the advertising, technology, media and government sectors to address the evergreen question of how to sustainably advance the U.S. marketing ecosystem while following federal consumer safety guidelines and internal company commitments. The discussion will cover privacy in connected TV advertising, cross-border data flow protection, ad law trends and more. Attendance is in-person only. 


Partnership marketing conference PI Live is in Miami today through Tuesday.

Leading e-commerce brands, content publishers and affiliate networks will gather to discuss how to effectively leverage partnerships of all kinds — from influencer marketing to co-branded collaboration — during an uncertain economic moment. In total, the three-day event features more than 30 educational breakout sessions and dozens of social and networking opportunities. 


Ad Age’s Creator Summit takes place Tuesday in New York.

Hear how some of today’s top content creators, brands and agencies are navigating the ever-evolving social media environment to remain culturally relevant and win consumer loyalty during this one-day seminar. Presentations will shine spotlights on many elements of the creator economy, including NIL strategies and supporting diverse online voices. 


The Revenue Marketing Summit runs Wednesday and Thursday in Denver.

This B2B-focused conference aims to provide attendees with data-driven guidance on several marketing optimization topics, such as achieving retention through personalization and refining brand voice. A leadership track also explores how to build and manage successful marketing teams. Featured speakers come from major brands like Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Inc. and Visa Inc.


Week in Review

The question of advertisers’ role in children’s online experiences dominated marketing headlines this week, thanks to the Great Congressional Grilling of TikTok. 


Just days after CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by U.S. lawmakers over the app’s policies around child safety and teen ad targeting (among many other things, namely its ties to China), Walmart Inc. pulled its Roblox activation aimed at kids, dubbed “Walmart’s Universe of Play.” The decision to remove the content followed months-long pressure campaigns by several advocacy groups and watchdog organizations, including Truth In Advertising, which claimed the “advergame” was designed to deceive young children into racking up big toy wishlists. 


Meanwhile, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed sweeping social media legislation requiring minors to get parental consent to sign up for any platform and mandating companies verify the ages of all their Utah users. The new regulations also impose a digital curfew on people under the age of 18 and call for social media platforms to provide parents with full access to their kids’ accounts.


It remains unclear how the state will go about enforcing these first-of-their-kind laws. However, private sector players are already looking to take advantage of growing anxieties about children’s online activity. 


Last weekend, Zigazoo, a kid-focused social media startup backed by a host of celebrities including LeBron James, Jimmy Kimmel and Serena Williams, launched a separate app aimed at Gen Z users in hopes of offering an alternative to TikTok. The app, which currently has over 3 million installs, emphasizes positivity through several features like comment disabling, optional private accounts and human-in-the-loop moderation.


In comments emailed to Morning Consult, Zigazoo CEO and founder Zak Ringelstein explained how the app’s commitment to hosting empowering content extends to its advertisers through a unique “challenge and response” design. 


“We know that Gen Zers would rather actively participate in social media and be a part of trends than just viewing posts,” he said. “Zigazoo leans into this approach by ensuring all ad campaigns on our platform are interactive, two-way conversations between brands and users.”


He cited a recent activation by the NBA, one of Zigazoo’s founding brand partners, in which the league’s account posted a video asking users who their favorite NBA player is, and a huge number responded directly to it. “That’s what good advertising is,” Ringelstein noted.


As for the rest of last week’s biggest news…

  • Meta Platforms Inc. will reportedly begin allowing European Facebook and Instagram users to opt out of receiving certain personalized ads next week in response to a ruling by European Union privacy regulators that the social media giant should not require users to agree to advertising based on their online activity. Meta’s updated guidelines will offer users the opportunity to choose a version of its app experiences that only serves targeted ads based on broad categories like age and gender, rather than the content with which they engage. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Alphabet Inc.’s Google announced it is launching an Ads Transparency Center, a searchable hub that provides users with high-level information on a library of verified advertisers, including what ads they are currently running and in what regions those ads appear. Ads featured in the Transparency Center will be limited to a 30-day window and users won’t be able to see more granular information, such as who an advertiser was targeting with a particular ad. (Marketing Brew)
  • The Walt Disney Co. laid off longtime Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter — who was closely involved with activist investor Nelson Peltz’s attempt to join Disney’s board — and plans to absorb Marvel Entertainment into other units of the company as part of an ongoing cost-cutting effort. (Variety) Meanwhile, in Central Florida, Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District board reportedly pushed through a series of legal covenants last month ahead of a takeover by a team appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that will protect the entertainment giant from state oversight for at least 30 years. (Orlando Sentinel)
  • PepsiCo Inc. unveiled a new logo and branding suite that will roll out in the United States later this year, marking its first major creative identity change since 2008. The refreshed logo features an upper-case “PEPSI” in the middle of the soft drink’s globe icon surrounded by a dark blue border, which Chief Marketing Officer Todd Kaplan said is meant to convey Pepsi’s “bold and confident” nature. (CNN)
  • Adidas AG rescinded an objection it filed with the U.S. Trademark Office earlier this week concerning Black Lives Matter’s attempt to register a logo that also features three stripes. The decision to back away from the branding dispute comes as the sportswear giant looks to complete a turnaround under new CEO Bjørn Gulden. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Twitter Inc. owner Elon Musk said that beginning April 15, only verified users — meaning those who pay for Twitter Blue or Twitter Verification for Organizations — will be recommended on the app’s “For You” page and allowed to vote in polls. (The Verge) Meanwhile, as Musk claims Twitter’s subscription-driven rule changes are about “treating everyone equally,” the platform reportedly has a list of more than 30 VIP users whose accounts it monitors and boosts, including LeBron James, President Joe Biden and Musk himself. (Platformer News)
  • Interpublic Group of Cos. Inc.’s Magna revised its 2023 all-media ad revenue growth forecast down from 3.7% to 3.4%, citing mixed economic indicators. Still, the media-buying firm expects the U.S. advertising market to reach a record $326 billion by the end of the year as innovations in many media channels, including retail and streaming, buoy the industry. (MediaPost)
Stat of the Week


The share of U.S. adults who said they feel “overwhelmed” by the amount of subscriptions available in the marketplace today, according to a new Morning Consult survey. Nearly half (49%) reported feeling “content” with the current state of the subscription economy, while just 10% felt “underwhelmed.” These figures varied significantly between respondents of different generations and genders. Learn more about this brewing “subscription divide” in my latest story: The Subscription Divide: Millennials Love Them. Baby Boomers Are Dubious.

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