Amazon Keeps Alexa Quiet; Telstra Writes Off Its Ooyala Investment

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Pitch-Perfect

How did Amazon make sure that the tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices in living rooms around the country didn’t activate during its Super Bowl ad featuring Alexa? It turns out, Amazon has been working on ways to keep Alexa from being activated by mass media content. One technique is to upload a snippet of, say, a commercial to Alexa devices, then recognize and ignore the audio. Another method is to transmit audio between 3,000 and 6,000 hertz – outside the range of human hearing – which Alexa registers as a signal to stay deactivated. The audio transmissions Alexa picks up but humans can’t hear present some interesting potential applications for advertisers, like attribution or targeting. More at Bloomberg.

Telco And Go

Australian telco Telstra is writing off its investment in video SSP and content management platform Ooyala, and will exit the ad tech business after failing to meet revenue goals, CMO reports. The telco took a 12% stake in Ooyala in 2012, then took over 98% of the business in 2014 in a deal valuing Ooyala at $270 million. “The market dynamics were very different” when Telstra purchased Ooyala, Ooyala executive chairman Stephen Elop tells CMO Australia. “We believed Ooyala remained a young and exciting company with leading offerings in intelligent video, which were continuing to evolve and scale,” Elop says. “While some of these initiatives have been successful, the market has continued to change. Ad tech has not performed well and we will therefore seek ways to exit that part of the business.” More.

Le Révenution

French newspapers Le Figaro and Le Monde have seen a 50% jump in monthly ad revenue since last September, when the publishers combined their ad sales operations under a new business called Skyline. One of Skyline’s first moves was to cut 12 vendors from the supply chain, including Teads, Advideum, Mobvalue and Sublime Skinz, reports Digiday. The publishers now sell only direct to brands or through a joint PMP called La Place, working with  AppNexus, Google and Rubicon Project. “Since we started Skyline, every time we have cut an ad tech vendor, we have made much more money,” says Le Figaro COO Alexis Marcombe. Digiday.

Pile Of Bricks

Consumer product brands are suffering in the US retail environment. Supermarket chains are looking to private-label brands to drive growth, and are demanding price cuts from top brands in order to hold shelf space. Amazon has a different kind of leverage over manufacturers: an ocean of third-party sellers with below-brand prices and 200 million shoppers who otherwise go to a direct competitor. “The heyday of the brand itself being enough of a differentiator to demand a higher price point ... is diminishing,” Kathy Gersch, VP at the consultancy Kotter, tells the Financial Times. More.

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