Marketing News Roundup

In this week’s episode: KFC, TikTok, and CVS’s media network are topics of conversation in full service marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast roundup of adland news.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Lively debate among members of Bigeye’s team sharing their takes on marketing news that made the headlines. Tim McCormack, VP of Media and Analytics, dissects CVS’s new media exchange and what it means if more retailers become media vendors. Rhett Withey, Art Director, tells us what he thinks about KFC’s decision to ditch its tagline in the face of COVID-19. And Rachel Woloshin, Agency Content Manager, breaks down the epic battle between TikTok and the US government. 

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Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant:, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us today. We’re taking a look at some of the marketing-related news stories that caught our attention this week. I’m joined in the studio today by three of my colleagues. First Bigeye’s VP of media and analytics, Tim McCormack.

Tim McCormack: Happy to be back.

Adrian Tennant: We also have Art Director Rhett Withey here.

Rhett Withey: Hello.

Adrian Tennant: And making her debut in front of the microphone, Rachel Woloshin, Bigeye’s Agency Content Manager.

Rachel Woloshin: Thanks for having me, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, everyone. Okay. Let’s kick off with a story about a 60-year-old tagline being ditched because of COVID-19. Now this one caught your creative eye, Rhett. So tell us more.

Rhett Withey: Okay. So I don’t know if you’ve heard about this. There’s a virus going around called Coronavirus. You might’ve seen a couple of stories on the news. But Kentucky Fried Chicken realized – actually I don’t even think they realized people pointed out to them and made complaints that the tagline “it’s finger lickin’ good” is not appropriate this year for whatever strange reason that might be. So, Kentucky Fried Chicken has since temporarily ended the usage of that tagline.

Adrian Tennant: Now, I understand, Rhett, that in fact, the US KFC has not been using that tagline in quite a while. It’s actually back in my own country, the UK and Ireland, where we’ve been using “finger lickin’ good” forever.

Rhett Withey: I had no idea that the United States wasn’t using that. Like I always equate “it’s finger lickin’ good” to KFC. So that’s great brand awareness on their part at least.

Adrian Tennant: Absolutely. Is your family a big fan of KFC?

Rhett Withey: I am a big fan of KFC.

Adrian Tennant: Oh!

Rhett Withey: My wife hates KFC. So I have to sneak it when she’s not in town.

Adrian Tennant: Right. What do you think about this loss of an iconic tagline?

Rhett Withey: I think it’s fine for right now. It’s kind of funny that, uh, people felt the need to complain about it. That if you’re getting your health news from Kentucky Fried Chicken, then you might be… You might want to check your sources a little bit more on that. 

Adrian Tennant: So have your meal times changed at all as a result of COVID?

Rhett Withey: Honestly, not really. I mean, and that’s the other part too, with how silly it seems to complain about a tagline that you’re still bringing it home. Right? We’re not looking at our fingers, at least I hope and out in public and touching things, but yeah, for the most part, we were always eating, take out anyway, if we’re, you know, we have a little toddler, so we don’t get the opportunity to go to restaurants so much. So it’s actually been a boon for us to have more restaurants available for delivery and take out.

Adrian Tennant: That’s a great point. Now, you know, a few weeks ago, Dana and I talked about the impact of COVID-19 on grocery shopping and food delivery services. And in that episode, we talked a lot about the fact that Doordash was one of the clear winners of COVID-19. So has the Withey household been taking advantage more of Doordash or Uber Eats, or any of those?

Rhett Withey: Yes. It’s usually at least once or twice a week that we’re ordering Uber, mostly Uber Eats, we’ve done Doordash a handful of times, but for the most part it’s usually Uber Eats and it’s honestly been really, really good for us.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Alright. Well, this story from KFC, takes me back to when this all started for us. We saw a bit of a rash of brands during the whole social distancing thing. There was McDonalds’ iconic, golden arches being separated. I want to say we also saw the five rings of the Olympic logo being separated also each in their own little ring by themselves. Um, have you seen any other examples of creative that sort of responded to COVID-19 in some way?

Rhett Withey: As a brand designer, I can appreciate when they do that, but Oh my gosh, it gives me a twitch when they break the brand guidelines! So maybe I’m like deathly ignorant to those because I just want to see the standard, like, “give me your brand guidelines, do not mess around with it” kind of thing. But those ideas that they’ve come up with that you just gave as an example, super creative.

Adrian Tennant: Exactly. Any TV spots that you particularly like or don’t like that you think have also responded to COVID well – or not?

Rhett Withey: I feel like every TV the same right now, like it’s the, “We’re responding to your needs by blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” or “In these tough times, this, this, this, this,” so it all kind of becomes a blur now. And actually it’s more noticeable when they’re not doing a Coronavirus or COVID-type ad.

Adrian Tennant: Right. When you see groups of people interacting with one another without masks, you go, “Oh, that was shot before COVID” or “Yeah, that wasn’t from around here!”

Rhett Withey: When everything was first starting and the shows had… Like TV shows had already been taped and we’re all sitting in quarantine, but then we’re watching a TV show with an audience and they’re trying to put it off that this is a live-type event. I’m like, “Nah, it’s not.”

Adrian Tennant: Do you think we’ve all become more accustomed now as well to sort of Zoom-produced content? Like actually in terms of what we will accept as production quality has in some ways been lowered as a result of this?

Rhett Withey: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right with the term, “accept” – like this is “acceptable” for, for content, but with the Zoom stuff though, it still kills me. Put your laptop at least a little higher. So it’s not below you and you’re looking down onto it or be cognizant of what’s behind you, on your wall and we’re seeing lots of crooked picture frames and fallen over books on shelves and stuff.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm-hmm. There is something fascinating though about seeing people’s actual living rooms and environment. Am I the only one who feels that way?

Rhett Withey: No, that’s the first thing I look at now is like, “Let’s see what you’re all about.” Like, “Oh, you’re going to put that Emmy award right there, right in that perfect spot right over your shoulder?”

Adrian Tennant: Absolutely. Alright. Well now Tim, your story is about the launch of a new media network selling advertising directly to consumer packaged goods brands. But with a twist, right?

Tim McCormack: Yes, absolutely. So, uh, announced this week, uh, CVS is coming out with what they call cMx. Uh, that’s a lot of initials, uh, for their media exchange. Uh, so this will allow people to buy advertising, uh, both on and outside of it on networks like Google and Facebook. Uh, but what’s really interesting here is it also allows them to buy in store ad placements. Uh, so a little bit of that omni-channel media.

Adrian Tennant: Now, which other retailers, if any, currently run this kind of in-store media network?

Tim McCormack: Yeah, absolutely. So there’s a couple that already have some in a couple of still in the works. So of course Walmart is a big one, as you can expect Target has Rondel, which is their media network, and Best Buy and Wayfair are both in progress to do so themselves.

Adrian Tennant: Interesting.

Tim McCormack: But one of the things I found most fascinating about this is that there was actually a Forrester Wave prediction that seems to becoming true, where they actually expect that because of the need for first party data, as we start to see the cookie crumble that any retailer with over 500 million unique site visitors per month is going to plan to become a media platform. And that’s just mind-blowing to me. We could end up soon with all sorts of different media platforms from our retailers and it could really fracture the kind of media network that we’re living in.

Adrian Tennant: So you think what CVS is doing will become a trend among even other categories of retailers? So I’m thinking about Petco and PetSmart, maybe even Michael’s Craft Stores.

Tim McCormack: Absolutely. It still seems bizarre to me and I think probably most people hearing this, but you know, we’re starting to see the industry trend that way and it’s almost a little dystopian, to think about all of the places we’re going to buy things actually advertising the information about what we’re buying directly to the people advertising.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Super close to the point of purchase and the moment of purchase.

Tim McCormack: Exactly.

Adrian Tennant: Personalized offers, promotional messages, all of that.

Tim McCormack: Yeah. So you can imagine, especially with the increases in dynamic advertising, just how many elements can be tailored directly to you. In some ways, you know, it’s even creepier than what we were facing with the cookie where lots of people didn’t like advertisers having access to anonymized data about them. So interesting the way that the industry always finds a way to respond

Adrian Tennant: The reporting I saw around this highlighted the fact that to help marketers track the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns, CVS is offering an in-store and online measurement system and added value metrics such as brand health, sales lift, and growth of new buyers. Smart move?

Tim McCormack: Absolutely. I think actually that closed loop measurement system for in store sales is the most exciting thing about this. Another, one of the facts I learned kind of from this story is that 76% of us consumers live within a five mile radius of a CVS. So that is a lot of people that can be reached and that you can actually directly attribute sales to view the performance of your campaigns. And that seems like a huge bonus.

Adrian Tennant: Right. And they always seem to be on the opposite corner to Walgreens. Am I the only one who thinks that?

Tim McCormack: That seems to be exactly right. And, and who knows? We may soon see Walgreen’s media exchange coming as well.

Adrian Tennant: Wow. Imagine that – the kind of a fight of the geo location, geo-targeting. Talk about conquesting! Okay. So I think you said that this network will be like a self-service programmatic tool?

Tim McCormack: From my understanding, they’re actually opening it up only to managed services at first. So only directly to people working with a rep. I would be surprised though, if it doesn’t become self-service or at least have inventory, that’s available to the programmatic exchanges shortly after.

Adrian Tennant: Right. And you mentioned the name, but let’s just do this again, because we’ve got Rhett here who knows about branding. So they’re calling this the very original name, “CVS Media Exchange” also known as lowercase ‘C’, capital ‘M’, lowercase ‘X’ – cMx. What do we think?

Rhett Withey: Because what people love the most is a complicated name and acronym. It’s easy to remember. Like they couldn’t come up with a simpler name for this? This is ridiculous.

Rachel Woloshin: It’s an acronym to explain an acronym, CVS CMX, CVS CMX. It’s very confusing.

Adrian Tennant: It is. This seems like the ideal moment to take a quick break. We’ll be right back after this message.


Adrian Tennant: Hello! I know you have a lot of options when it comes to podcasts, so I really appreciate you listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. Now we’re planning our fifth season, and I’d like to request your help. We’ve created the first IN CLEAR FOCUS Listener Survey. It’s mobile-friendly and super quick. It would really help us out if you could share your thoughts about the podcast, and what kinds of topics you’d like to hear more of. When you take the survey, you’ll be in with a chance to win a 50 dollar Amazon gift card – woohoo! There’s a link to the survey in this week’s show notes. Just go to slash insights, and click on the button marked podcast. Thank you for your participation, and for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. See you next time.

[Music ends]

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. We’re talking about marketing news stories that caught our collective BIG eye this week. Gettit? Groans, okay. And for our next story of this week, we are going to take a look at an epic clash between the US government and the hottest social entertainment app. Rachel, tell us more.

Rachel Woloshin: Yeah. So there has been a lot of drama with TikTok and the government. Whoever thought that the government would be going after an app that is known for silly dance challenges. So this all started when President Trump released an executive order on August 6th saying that the China-based parent company ByteDance must sell the US operations of TikTok within 45 days, or the app would no longer be allowed to operate in the US this is because there are concerns the Chinese government could collect the user data and somehow use it to spy on US citizens. However, a counterpoint to that is that there’s no evidence that it’s collecting any more data than Facebook is collecting. So maybe because it’s involved in the Chinese government, who knows? So TikTok is staring down a deadline of September 20th to sell their US operations. There are plenty of US buyers that are circling around acquiring the apps. So there’s a few different options that are looking at it in response to all of this TikTok is now suing the US government in Federal court to avoid being shut down. They say they’ve taken extraordinary measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok’s user data. So we’ll see how it all shakes out.

Adrian Tennant: Now, this is definitely one of those categories we can call a developing news story as it seems like every morning this week we’ve woken up to a new wrinkle. So Engadget, I think, reported on the fact that Mark Zuckerberg allegedly had a private meeting with the President and suggested the idea that TikTok wasn’t good for America and that possibly President Trump might want to look into that. And then the story that broke, I think last night, this morning, is that the current CEO of TikTok, Kevin Meyer, who’s only actually been in the position for four months, having come from Disney, has resigned. I guess this pressure from the government is just, just too much. Thoughts, Rachel?

Rachel Woloshin: Yeah. I mean, this is 100% not what he signed up for. TicTok has been a media darling for a couple of years now. I mean, it has a lot of cultural impact right now, has a hundred million monthly active users. So Kevin Meyer thought that he was coming into a really successful company, he was going to take it to new heights in the US and now with all of these questions, I guess he doesn’t want to go down with a potentially sinking ship. So yeah, we’ll see how it ends up there.

Adrian Tennant: Now you mentioned, um, potential suitors for TikTok. I know Microsoft is one, Oracle is interested, and I think you mentioned there’s another.

Rachel Woloshin: Yeah. So the news broke today that Walmart is potentially looking at partnering with Microsoft to go in on TikTok. So I’m not sure where that partnership comes in and those synergies with a social networking app. I mean, I think it makes sense with Microsoft, but yeah, Walmart’s looking to get in on it on it too.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. So, okay, you manage Bigeye’s social media channels. How have you seen the use of TikTok evolve during the course of the pandemic?

Rachel Woloshin: I mean, people are at home and then they’re bored right now. So they have their phones to look at content. There’s not a lot of produced content coming out right now. I mean, as Rhett mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of Zoom content, not your traditional media. So I think people are trying to entertain themselves either by creating TikToks and watching TikTok. So I think that skyrocketed a lot. I mean, TikTok is kind of handmade for, you know, people being stuck, bored at home.

Adrian Tennant: Looking at the success of TikTok, are we starting to see some TikTok, imitators, possibly?

Rachel Woloshin: Totally. I mean, it’s interesting that you mentioned Mark Zuckerberg earlier because Instagram, which Facebook owns, released their version of TikTok called Reels, last month I believe. So they’ve rolled out something that’s supposed to be the TikTok competitor. Um, and then there’s another app that’s starting to bubble up called Triller, which is pretty much a TikTok imitation.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Is this an independently owned app?

Rachel Woloshin: It’s owned by another media company. It’s not as big as Facebook. I can’t remember the name of it.

Adrian Tennant: Tim. Social media and TikTok. Is TikTok in our media buys right now?

Tim McCormack: It’s not currently, mostly due to the age of the audience and the target audiences for our campaigns we’re running but it’s one that we keep a close eye on, especially looking at using influencers to reach out. We’ve seen that there’s a pretty stark difference between brand ads and influencer ads on TikTok, which makes sense if we know what we know about Gen Z and how they react to kind of influencer content, as opposed to  brands who, especially in an environment like TikTok, can feel a little out of place.

Adrian Tennant: Right. So, focus group of one… my mother, who is in her eighties, lives in Spain, she is obsessed with TikTok. Don’t know what to tell you. She’s constantly sending me things because now we have her well anyway… Rhett, tell me about TikTok in your household. Has it influenced your household at all?

Rhett Withey: So my wife is big on TikTok, but I have actually been very anti-TikTok for a long time. I’ve been on the radar of TikTok being a spy piece, not necessarily like they’re spying on my phone. For a little while when the iOS 14 dev kits went out, that was one of the first things that got reported on was how often TikTok was actually looking at your clipboard – your copy clipboard. I think The Verge did a big story on it, where it was accessing your whatever was copied on your clipboard every six seconds. So if you’d ever copied a password from your account settings to put into somewhere else, they potentially have it. So that’s where the story of TikTok being a spy on you, I think began. And that was like a year and a half to almost two years ago. But they have said though, that, “no, we’re not spying on you,” whatever. And actually, the iOS 14 dev kits have pointed out other apps like Facebook and Instagram of doing similar type things that we always assumed they were doing. But with the way that iOS 14 is being set up to ask for permissions more often, they’re seeing like, “Hey, these apps are asking for permissions for things that they should not have access to.” So TikTok has long been on my “I’m not going to install it. I’ll look at videos on a browser or through Reddit, but I’m not going to install it.”

Tim McCormack: Have you learned any of the dances?

Rhett Withey: No. And I assume that every dance now comes from TikTok. If I see somebody doing something in the office or out in the wild, they must just be TikTok-ing a verb now.

Adrian Tennant:Well, it’s interesting you say that. There is one member of our team – who will remain anonymous – and I could not figure out why that member of the team was doing what they were doing in their office. And apparently miming to something that I could not hear. Um, but clearly they thought it was hilarious and felt they needed to do it several times over to get it just perfect.

Rhett Withey: This is just you telling us what you were actually doing anyway.

Adrian Tennant: No, I observed this behavior in the office. Anyway, that person will remain anonymous and yeah, enough said on that topic. Okay. All right, when we look back to the beginning of March and middle of March, when COVID was just becoming a thing for us, I don’t know what your expectations were, but I thought we would be kind of back to some sort of normal by now. And it’s very clear that there is no immediate end in sight for us. How are you all adapting to that from a practical standpoint? I’ll start with you, Tim.

Tim McCormack: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m definitely missing live music, but you know, kind of adapting by playing more of it, listening more to my friends, playing in small groups. As far as the larger ecosystem, honestly I think there’s been as much turmoil from other sources as well that are disrupting things. Maybe I’m biased by watching the NBA and seeing the playoffs potentially get canceled here, due to the racial tensions in the country. But it just seems like this whole year it’s been tough to really, really come to any kind of consensus, any kind of normality across the board.

Adrian Tennant: Rhett?

Rhett Withey: The way that everybody has adapted has been great for me because I am incredibly lazy. So yes, bring me my food through Uber or Doordash and you know what, I don’t really go to concerts anymore. Cause the last concert I went to a few years ago, I’m standing there, I’m like, “I could be at home right now. What am I doing?” So that hasn’t affected me at all. So welcome to my world of being lazy and boring. So the world is just adapting to me now. Take that, world!

Adrian Tennant: Rachel?

Rachel Woloshin: I mean, I guess it’s just Rhett’s World and we’re just living in it! I mean, I think by this point we’ve all just accepted that this is how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. So I know for me personally, I’m very lucky that my life hasn’t been affected in a super major way. Yes, I do miss socializing with my friends and going out to bars and restaurants and those things. But at the end of the day, my life hasn’t changed all that much. I mean it’s 2020 has been the most wild year so far and it’s not over yet.

Adrian Tennant: It is not over yet.

Rachel Woloshin: Yeah. I mean between, you know, two hurricanes at the same time in the Gulf of Mexico, uh, yeah, I mean, we don’t know what’s going to happen and I think I’ve just accepted that. We’ll see.

Adrian Tennant: Well, as you three have explained it’s been a finger-lickin’, byte-dancin’, TikTokin’, CVS network-launchin’ week in the ad world. Thank you all for being on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Rachel Woloshin, Bigeye’s Agency Content Manager.

Rachel Woloshin: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Tim McCormack, VP of Media and Analytics.

Tim McCormack: Thanks for inviting me back.

Adrian Tennant: And Rhett Withey, Bigeye’s Art Director.

Rhett Withey: More Uber Eats drivers, please.

Adrian Tennant: And thank YOU for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. 


You can find a transcript of our conversation along with links to resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” That’s also where you’ll find our listener survey. Please take a moment to tell us about what other shows you enjoy and the kinds of content you’d like to hear more of on this podcast. This is your last week to be in with a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card. To ensure you don’t miss future episodes, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to iIN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next time, goodbye.

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