How Kimberly-Clark navigates a digital ecosystem where every ad platform is a walled garden

Deprecation of third-party cookies is a topic that has loomed large over Advertising Week, as marketers grapple with the sunsetting of a widely adopted tactic for engaging consumers online. Kimberly-Clark Corp., the owner of household brands like Huggies, Cottonelle and Kleenex, is investing in new ways to wrest more control over first-party data in response, a process that executives said is complicated and will require the organization to act more independently than it has in the past.

“It’s such a pivotal time for CPGs right now. CPGs are starting to double [down] on the importance of owning the consumer relationship,” Josh Blacksmith, senior director of global consumer relationships and engagement at Kimberly-Clark, said during a livestreamed conference session with Salesforce on Monday. “If we were to leave this, in perpetuity, in the hands of our retail partners, they’re sort of focused on the next transaction.”

It’s a seismic industry shift that is in some ways constricting the ad market, as the digital sector — now the dominant one by ad spend in the U.S. — sees its biggest players shore up their already-outsized strengths. Such changes could have a particularly sharp impact on the packaged goods category, which has historically depended on external partners as data sources and is also contending with a radical move toward e-commerce and direct-to-consumer services.

Adding another layer of complexity to the mix is the push by retailers to set up their own digital advertising businesses to rival the likes of Google, Facebook and especially Amazon. Walmart has quickly built out a marketing platform, adding an omnichannel analytics suite last summer, while other companies, including Target and Kroger, have similar offerings. Advertising Week, all-virtual this year due to the pandemic, has several sessions led by Walmart Media Group and an entire discussion track sponsored by Roundel, Target’s media network.

“Essentially any platform we’re advertising on today is setting itself up as its own walled garden,” Blacksmith said, without naming specific brands. “It’s not just about the Facebooks and Googles of the world; it’s also about … our retail partners.

“We’re spending a significant amount of money because we believe that our frontline consumers are also shopping inside those experiences as well,” he added, calling out the company’s higher investments in areas like paid search.

Lofty goals

The death of third-party cookies, expedited by the introduction of data privacy laws like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act, will bring about some painful changes for marketers that have built their skill sets around the tactic. Not all of those changes will be bad, panelists said.

“It’s almost like now, without having an email address and owning the relationship, you can’t actually do the brand marketing you’ve started to build all the muscle around over the last decade,” Blacksmith said.

While the transitional period away from cookies is already bumpy, the bigger picture could serve to benefit marketers like Kimberly-Clark that are aiming to improve the efficiency and quality of their media.

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Judge Accuses Epic Of Dishonesty In Fortnite-Apple Legal Battle, Disputes Anticompetitive Walled Garden

Fortnite
Liar, liar, pants on fire! That pretty much sums up what a judge accused Epic of doing in its highly publicized and costly dispute with Apple over the royalty rate it collects for apps sold in its App Store, as well as in-game purchases. The judge told Epic that even though some people might consider the team a bunch of “heroes” for taking on Apple, its claims against the company are “not honest.”
“You did something, you lied about it by omission, by not being forthcoming. That’s the security issue. That’s the security issue!,” Judge Gonzales Rogers told Epic during a court broadcast that was livestreamed on Zoom, according to CNN. “There are a lot of people in the public who consider you guys heroes for what you guys did, but it’s still not honest.”
The livestream is not available for viewing, as far as I can tell, though if you dig around you can find bits and pieces of it on the web. What it basically boils down to is Epic reiterating previous claims that Apple’s banishment of Epic and Fortnite from the App Store is causing the developer irreparable harm, and also harmful to consumers.

This whole mess was initiated by Epic, though, when it decided to break its contract with Apple. Every developer that makes a buck (or a whole lot of bucks, as is the case with Epic) from apps hosted on the App Store has to fork over a 30 percent cut to Apple. That includes the sale of the app itself, and in-game purchase, which for Fortnite entails exchanging real currency for V-bucks.

Epic apparently grew tired of sharing that much revenue with Apple and determined that it was being anticompetitive. So it updated Fortnite to bypass Apple’s revenue share for in-game purchases. Apple responded by booting Fortnite from the App Store, and later Epic as well, which brings us to the current legal battle.

Judge Rogers is not making a determination on the outcome. Instead, this revolves around Epic’s request for a preliminary injunction, to force Apple to reinstate Fortnite back into the App Store. However, Judge Rogers did not seem all that sympathetic, at one point saying she was “not particularly persuaded” by one of the legal arguments Epic made. She also threw cold water on Epic’s claim issue with Apple have a walled garden, so to speak.

“Walled gardens have existed for decades. Nintendo has had a walled garden. Sony has had a walled garden. Microsoft has had a walled garden. What Apple’s doing is not much different… It’s hard to ignore the economics of the industry, which is what you’re asking me to do,” Judge Rogers said.

Apple also had some harsh comments in reference to Epic, saying its CEO Tim Sweeney is “trying to be the Pied Piper of other developers,” trying to get them to “cheat” and “breach” their contracts.

While this case remains unsolved in the early going, the judge’s remarks highlight the kind of uphill

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