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Today in Context Collapse!: Holiday cards, finally getting paperwork processed, Twitter’s CEO transition, holding companies and adtech + more.
Housekeeping and keeping-in-touch-with-far-flung-people note: Sending out holiday cards next week. Would you like one? Of course you’d like one, even if you didn’t receive one before. Sign up here.
And, Thus, the PPP Saga Ends
Like a lot of other people in this country, I run a small business. Like a lot of American small businesses, we took out a PPP loan to make it through the worst of the pandemic. This week, I’m celebrating a milestone: Getting my first round PPP loan forgiveness approved after nine months or so in paperwork limbo.
Our first round PPP loan was serviced by Kabbage, which was acquired by American Express and spun out their PPP portfolio into a separate company called K-Servicing. Then all sorts of issues occurred with the spinoff company, our forgiveness application went into the digital ether and headlines started popping up like AmEx acquisition of online lender Kabbage hurt PPP borrowers (CNBC) and The Paycheck Protection Program Was Fintech’s ‘Moment to Shine.’ That Spotlight Also Revealed the Problems With Those Loans (Morning Consult). Not good.
Our second round PPP loan was serviced by an entirely different company who, err, processed and approved our paperwork in two weeks or so.
A lot of businesses started having problems a lot worse than paperwork being stuck in bureaucratic limbo, unfortunately. Our problem—having to wait months for access to the platform to resubmit loan forgiveness paperwork—was minor by comparison. Extremely irritating, but minor.
But many emails, calls to call centers and followup from my Congressman’s office (Thanks again to Rep. Chuy Garcia’s team) later, we finally had our paperwork processed and approved. This means being able to scope out 2021 business, being able to build a growth plan for 2021, and finally—finally—being able to plan for our business’ future.
Cheers to that.
Jack Dorsey Out At Twitter
And it’s official... Jack Dorsey has resigned as Twitter’s CEO.
Dorsey remains CEO of Square. The move follows years of service as dual CEO of both Twitter and Square, which is a long time to serve as CEO of both a leading payments processing company and one of the world’s leading social media platforms. Especially, especially when both Square and Twitter operate in, uhh, regulatory-heavy fields.
I found these two background explainers (both from Axios) by Sara Fischer on what’s next for Twitter and Dan Primack on activist investor Elliott Management’s role in forcing Dorsey out extremely helpful for context-y things.
I’ll also add that Dorsey’s resignation follows Twitter’s recent introduction of subscription platform Twitter Blue and functionality for tipping content creators, both of which should have been implemented at least five years ago.
Dorsey’s replacement, Parag Agrawal, is Twitter’s current CEO and a deeply qualified in-house choice to helm the company.
But here’s what bothers me: Twitter Inc., under both Jack Dorsey and Dick Costolo, has been amazingly talented at building + scaling a worldwide social network while paying a lot less attention to the business surrounding the masterpiece of engineering and user psychology. Twitter the Platform got lots of love while Twitter the Business which underwrites Twitter the Platform didn’t get the support it needed.
Why wasn’t there an edit function for posts years ago? How come Twitter wasn’t able to offer substantially different advertising experiences on desktop vs. mobile? How come Twitter Inc. didn’t have a coherent approach years ago for working with the large brands who kept pouring $$$ into the platform as an advertising and customer service platform? Anyway…
IPG Changing Of The Guard
Really enjoyed this piece from Barry Dudley in The Drum about CEO Michael Roth’s retirement from IPG, one of the advertising industry’s largest holding companies (Disclosure: I formerly worked for R/GA, one of IPG’s portfolio agencies).
IPG is a massive holding company that owns high-profile advertising, marketing and PR agencies like R/GA, McCann, FCB, Golin, Weber Shandwick and MullenLowe. The holding company model—where a handful of large corporations own a plurality of the world’s advertising agencies and generate profits on the margins of operations while (ideally!) leaving agencies to function autonomously—is something that simply is in the iteration of the advertising/marketing/PR world that we live in1.
Anyway, gonna hone in on this quote from Dudley:
Another part of his legacy was an eye for a good buy – and for taking the long-term view. A great example of this came in 2018 when IPG bought the database marketing and consumer insight business Acxiom for $2.3bn, its biggest-ever acquisition. The deal raised a few eyebrows, despite the interest in data at the time; the price paid came in for particular criticism. But three years on it was put into a favorable perspective by Publicis’s acquisition of Epsilon for $4bn.
Initially IPG focused on using Acxiom’s data capabilities across its media agencies, and it took a while to figure out how best to use Acxiom across the group’s agency offerings. But Roth and his team managed to integrate their new purchase into the group, and it has contributed to profits ever since – and significantly, helped win new clients (as R/GA did years earlier when IPG bought Bob Greenberg’s innovative New York digital agency).
Both Acxiom and Epsilon are consumer data companies who make money by finding new ways to collect, bundle and market personal data which can get really, really granular and personal-identifying sometimes… and the future of the advertising world is tied in with that. It’s something that can’t be undone; the toothpaste has already been squeezed out of the tube.
And the programmatic revolution that changed (and personalized) internet advertising is quickly coming to both streaming platforms and cable TV as they merge into some weird hybrid-y OTT-y thingy… which is something IPG and their peers will be dealing with a lot over the next decade.
Check out Stacksearch, a Substack search engine with their paid option Stacksearch Pro which looks extremely helpful for anyone running either a paid Substack newsletter or a Substack with large readership. Recommend it.
Jon Ronson and Adam Curtis being eccentric British dudes discussing strange things in global culture and the future of politics in The Guardian.
Kaitlyn Tiffany’s in-depth essay on Kodak’s rise and fall.
Satire-not-satire from The Hard Times: Kids Finally Decide To Have “Don’t Believe Everything You Read Online” Conversation With Parents.
Last but not least, Jerry Saltz’s masterful YouTube talk on How To Be An Artist.