Twitter, Meta, Apple in the spotlight over ad practices, plus more: What you missed globally over the holiday

The first week of 2023 has witnessed significant regulatory and business movements within global media, marketing and tech sectors. Here are the key stories from the holiday period.

Twitter reevaluates political ad ban

Twitter has flagged a plan to relax the policy for “cause-based ads” in the US immediately and “expand” political advertising permitted on the platform in the coming weeks, reversing its decision to ban all paid political messages in 2019.

The company’s then chief executive, Jack Dorsey, instigated the ban and reasoned that “political message reach should be earned, not bought”. However, announced in a tweet on Wednesday from Twitter Safety, Twitter reevaluated its political advertising rules and said the new policy would align with “TV and other media outlets”.

Advertisers are increasingly wary about spending on the platform after the Elon Musk takeover. One media agency executive told Mumbrella in November that they cannot “in good conscience tell a client to put themselves in this environment”.

Since then, Musk has reinstated a series of controversial accounts including those of Andrew Tate, Donald Trump and Kanye West. An ill-conceived relaunch of Twitter Blue also led to an influx of fake corporate accounts.

The revenue impact of this decision remains to be seen. However, as US political parties prepare for the 2024 presidential election, it is worth noting that political ad spend for the 2018 midterms was around $3 million (A$4.4 million), according to Twitter’s then CFO Ned Segal.

Meta, Apple hit with fines in EU over ad practices

European regulators have imposed fines on both Apple and Meta over their data and privacy handling practices to curate personalised ads. While the former was fined 8 million (A$12.45 million), the latter was slapped with 390 million (A$606.99 million).

In a statement, France’s privacy watchdog CNIL said in Apple’s App Store under an old system, “identifiers” were used for several purposes including personalised ads and were “pre-checked” without obtaining consent.

According to Reuters, Apple responded that “Apple Search Ads goes further than any other digital advertising platform we are aware of by providing users with a clear choice as to whether or not they would like personalized ads.” The company is said to be filing an appeal.

At the same time, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta has been ordered by The Irish Data Protection Commission to pay two separate fines: one (€210 million or A$327.2 million) over breaches of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and another (€180 million or A$280.5 million) over breaches of the same law by Instagram.

In a blog post, Meta indicated it would appeal both rulings, while stressing that it will not prevent personalised advertising on the platform.

Source: Ajay Suresh, Wikimedia Commons

Fox, News Corp renew office lease amid speculations of merger

Fox Corporation and News Corporation have renewed the lease for their Midtown Manhattan offices for another 20 years, as the Murdoch family – who owns large stakes in both – signalled the interest of merging both companies again after nearly a decade.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the two leases are roughly equivalent to the company’s current footprint.

News Corporation, the parent company of News Corp Australia, teased the possibility of reuniting its Fox and News Corp businesses globally last October, but the move is believed to have no local impact. An independent committee has been formed to evaluate the potential merger, according to the company’s announcement on ASX.

The two companies first split in 2013, with the print business falling under News Corp while TV and entertainment under 21st Century Fox.

The layoffs continue in tech and media

It appears that the industry-wide layoff in the tech, media and marketing sectors has extended into the new year.

2022 saw prominent layoffs by Meta, Twitter, Shopify and some local cuts in M&C Saatchi, Ogilvy Australia and WPP on a group level. Now, companies including Paramount Global (100 roles this quarter), Buzzfeed (12% or 180 people), Netflix (450+ people) and Vice Media (cut cost by 15%) are the latest to get lean.

Buzzfeed launched Lighthouse, an advertising offering across its platforms, locally last year, as it struggled with maintaining the momentum of its established viral video and article formula. In an SEC filing in the US, Buzzfeed said it’s experiencing an “ongoing audience shift to short-term, vertical video”, which the company is still “developing from a monetization standpoint”.

At the same time, The Wall Street Journal reported that Vice Media was expecting to miss its 2022 revenue goal by more than $100 million (A$148.1 million). The figure comes as the company reportedly seeks to sell itself to Greek broadcaster Antenna Group, and sought a valuation of around $1.5 billion (A$ 2.2 billion).

Locally, Pedestrian Group, part of Nine Entertainment, is the exclusive partner of Vice Media. It revived Vice and launched Refinery29 in Australia in 2021.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.