The 10 most-read tech stories in 2021

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From cookieless targeting to Discord’s first campaign, Campaign US rounded up the biggest tech stories of the year.

10. The download on Discord: How brands can take advantage of Gen Z’s new chat app

As brands channeled their energy to TikTok and Clubhouse strategies in early 2021, Discord emerged as a new frontier. The chat app boomed among Gen Zers during the pandemic, reaching more than 140 million monthly active users and raising over $300 million in funding.

Campaign US had the download for readers. Initially a way for gamers to talk via audio chats while playing and streaming, Discord evolved into a place where people gather on customized “servers” to discuss various topics of interest.

What’s in it for brands? Discord’s focus is on building and nurturing communities. While it doesn’t sell traditional advertising (yet), brands can create their own servers and curate organic conversation with consumers.

Campaign US was so intrigued by the platform, we launched our own server in the fall, where advertising professionals can chat about news, exciting new work and connect. Join us!

9. Discord launches its first brand campaign

Discord also made headlines this year when it debuted its first advertising campaign in May, a telltale sign of a growing brand.

Created by its internal design team, Art School, “Imagine a Place” invited users to think of an online forum where they have control over the conversation, the content created and their own data. The campaign included a brand refresh with new colors, a different font and a slightly updated logo.

The campaign launched alongside a number of new features on Discord, including stage discovery, threads, ticketed events and in-app poker.

8. Index Exchange overhauls its platform and rebrands for the privacy era

Pending the loss of online identifiers, Index Exchange developed a new brand identity and revamped its programmatic exchange.

The new exchange was written on Golang, an open source programming language that allows engineers to build simple programs quickly. The new build aims to address efficiency, speed and compliance.

The platform now supports open identifiers including Unified ID 2.0, LiveRamp’s IdentityLink and Merkle’s M1. Tools including Google’s FLoC and Apple’s SKAdNetwork are also supported when personal identifiers are unavailable.

7. The SPO effect: How GroupM saved $1.5 million in supply fees

Supply path optimization (SPO) became a buzzword a few years ago, as agencies began working directly with supply-side platforms (SSPs), which monetize publisher inventory, to find the most direct and clean path to supply. As a result, holding companies began partnering with a select handful of SSPs to ensure efficiency and gain more control over their buying strategies.

For GroupM, that strategy seemed to work. The media buying giant saved $1.5 million in programmatic supply chain fees after it partnered with SSP Index Exchange in 2020. GroupM and Index created discounts, products and deal structures that offer efficiencies for GroupM as part of the preferred relationship. Reducing exchange fees, which increased based on spending volume, led to the bulk of savings.

The partnership also allows for co-product development. Previously, for instance, buyers would have to set up separate programmatic integrations for every type of ad unit sold by a single publisher. Index helped GroupM package similar ad formats across publishers with a single deal ID, saving time and effort for its teams.

6. Publicis Groupe acquires CitrusAd as the retail media space heats up

In July, Publicis Groupe acquired retail media platform CitrusAd to bolster its retail media capabilities. The emerging industry, which enables CPG brands to optimize their placements at the point of purchase on e-commerce sites, is worth an estimated $30 billion and growing, according to Publicis.

CitrusAd operates as a standalone entity under Epsilon, and has incorporated its identity solution, CORE ID, into the platform. The ID uses first-party data to power ads and the integration allows advertisers to connect their retail activity to off-site activity without third-party cookies.

5. TikTok and IPG Mediabrands launch global creator partnership

To help marketers tap into the creator economy on TikTok, IPG Mediabrands partnered with the social platform in April on a three-year global creator program.

As part of the partnership, IPG and TikTok launched Creator Collective, an intensive creator bootcamp featuring a group of hand-selected influencers that clients can tap for strategic advice. Sessions include educational lessons for brands on TikTok’s culture, product features and the language used by its audience.

The program launched in North America and aims to expand globally to give brands a better understanding of how to show up natively on TikTok.

4. LOL Surprise and SuperAwesome enter the world of Roblox

LOL Surprise made quite the stir when it launched its new line of dance dolls with a native integration on Roblox.

The toy company created skins and rooms on Roblox to allow kids globally to play with its new dance dolls on the gaming platform. LOL Surprise partnered with SuperAwesome, a kids internet safety company, to ensure the experience adhered to child-privacy laws in participating countries.

For LOL Surprise, the campaign was an effort to jump into gaming as kids spend more time on their devices. The toy company also partnered with kids gaming influencers, who live-streamed themselves playing with the digital dolls on Rukkaz.

3. Omnicom Media Group signs on to Teads’ cookieless targeting tech

Omnicom Media Group (OMG) went all-in on cookieless solutions this year. The media agency group teamed up with ad tech platform Teads to use its cookieless ad targeting tool, Cookieless Translator, to continue to target audiences while preserving consumer privacy.

OMG said it would integrate the Cookieless Translator into Omni, its bespoke data platform and operating system, allowing it to offer audience-based advertising at scale as cookies start to disappear.

2. Discord’s new short film features Danny DeVito and Akwafina

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Not long after Discord debuted its first brand campaign (see No. 9), it created buzz with its first short film, featuring actors Danny DeVito and Awkwafina. 

“Discord —The Movie” expanded on the “Imagine a Place” campaign with live action, CGI and animated shots of DeVito and Akwafina travelling through an array of different worlds. The film called upon the stars to “imagine a place” where people shared similar interests as them through a variety of scenes, including a dimly-lit tavern made out of claymation, an egg-room inspired by DeVito and an open-sea pirate adventure. 

The film was created based on stories sourced from Discord and at times used direct quotes from Discord users, demonstrating the power of UGC.

1. Black creatives speak out against LinkedIn for removing posts

LinkedIn entered murky waters earlier this year when Black creatives in advertising spoke up about shared experiences of having their posts centered on diversity and anti-racism removed from the platform without warning. 

Conversations about LinkedIn censoring and demoting posts surfaced in August, when VMLY&R executive creative director Walter Geer shared his experience about having a post regarding Black equity removed from the platform with no explanation.

Shortly after going public with the allegation, other creatives of color responded on LinkedIn, sharing similar challenges with the platform. 

LinkedIn said the issue was video-related and that it remained committed to DE&I. 

Geer requested several times to escalate the issue to LinkedIn CEO Ryan Rolansky and speak with him publicly about censoring voices of color on the platform. The request was never honored, and instead, Geer spoke with Klayton Kopecky, LinkedIn’s director of global trust engagement.

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