What in the World—Week of October 27

Meet the throaty voice behind Apple’s new iPhone spot

The voice behind one of two launch spots for Apple’s new titanium iPhone 15 Pro doesn’t even own an Apple device.

“I have a Huawei, because it was very cheap,” said Albert Kuvezin, a Siberian throat-singer with the band Yat-Kha, whose “Karangailyg Kara Hovaa (Dyngyldai)” is one of two songs being used by Apple for the product launch. The other is “Get Him Back!” a more conventional offering by global pop star Olivia Rodrigo.

In what is decidedly the more distinctive of the two Apple spots, Kuvezin’s guttural singing accompanies visuals of a piece of metal hurtling through space, being shaped into the tech giant’s latest handset by the elements. “From the edge of the universe. To the palm of your hand,” read the accompanying subtitles.

According to The Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Cohen, the song in the spot dates back to 1995, and its title translates to “In the Endless Black Steppe.”

“[I]t’s about a horse running and a woman’s hair swaying in the wind,” said Cohen.

The ad has been viewed more than 13 million times on YouTube—compared to about one million views for the Olivia Rodrigo spot—but Kuvezin told the WSJ he’s still mystified about why Apple chose his music. “I still don’t know,” he said, although he speculates that like the new iPhone (or at least its marketing conceit), his voice comes from the edge of the universe.

Available TV ad inventory to drop 24% by 2027, says expert

Available advertising inventory across both linear and streaming TV services will drop significantly by 2027, according to industry expert Brian Wieser. Writing on his Substack Madison and Wall last week, Wieser, a former GroupM executive turned analyst, predicted that US TV (linear and streaming) is poised to lose 24% of its inventory over the next several years.

He arrived at the estimate using a combination of historical Nielsen data, the research firm Antenna, and his own historical estimates of ad loads and “simplistic, if plausible” critical assumptions. He said that the major streaming services are unlikely to duplicate the approximately 12 minutes of advertising per hour that is a mainstay of traditional TV, meaning that as linear TV viewing continues to drop, the amount of purchasable inventory available to advertisers will also decline.

Services like Netflix and Disney+ currently have about four minutes of advertising per hour on their ad-supported tier. “No matter how much streaming grows, it can never make up for lost linear ad inventory so long as ad loads remain light and consumers exhibit preferences for ad-free options for the biggest service (ie Netflix),” he said.

While streamers could attempt to increase ad loads, he predicted that would result in a loss of subscribers. While a significant amount of linear TV viewing is done in an “ambient” manner (in the background while other tasks are being done), viewing on the streamers is intentional, meaning that advertising is “much more of an interruption and less tolerated.”

Fake out-of-home is now a thing

First we had out-of-home (OOH), which was followed by digital out-of-home (DOOH) and now there’s a new outdoor advertising trend: Fake out-of-home (FOOH), pronounced, appropriately, faux.

According to Marketing Brew, a growing number of brands are using CGI to create seemingly real OOH ads/stunts with the sole intention of going viral on social media. Brands said that the tactic enables them to test new ideas without the hurdles of traditional OOH, and none of the expense.

Just last week, for example, the hot sauce brand Truff created a CGI video marking a new collaboration with the chicken chain Popeyes that showed a huge bottle of its sauce on the back of a yacht. Truff has been one of the most ardent FOOH practitioners, with director of marketing Michelle Gabe saying it uses CGI to entertain its audience.

And those viral ads for Maybelline that showed buses and subway trains equipped with mascara wands brushing against eyelashes as they pulled into stops, weren’t real either. Instead, they were created by a CGI artist named Ian Padgham and his production company, Origiful—which has also created FOOH executions for brands including Burberry and Gucci.

“I’ve been copied a lot on styles I’ve created, but I’ve never had one where it’s become so popular so fast,” Padgham told Marketing Brew.

Meta to offer ad-free tier in Europe 

To comply with what it describes as evolving regulations, Meta is launching an ad-free tier for its Facebook and Instagram platforms across most of Europe. Beginning next month, users will be able to pay €9.99 ($14.68 Canadian) per month for an ad-free experience.

At the beginning of the year, Meta was fined €390 million ($573 million) for breaking EU data rules around ads. At the time, the regulator said that the company could not “force consent” by demanding that consumers accept how their data is used or leave the platforms.

“We believe in a free, ad-supported internet—and will continue to offer people free access to our personalized products and services regardless of income,” said Meta in blog post announcing the new tier on Monday.

Services across most of the digital ecosystem, including streaming services like Netflix , are increasingly offering ad-free options as a revenue generation tool. On Oct. 27, social platform X announced a US$16 ad-free Premium+ tier. And according to the BBC, TikTok has also been testing a $4.99 subscription to remove ads, “but there is no indication yet that this will be rolled out globally.”

Will it be a red Christmas for toy companies?

It seems that not even recent cinematic success will be enough to propel toy companies Mattel and Hasbro to a blockbuster holiday season, with both companies tempering expectations for the key sales period, according to Quartz.

While the recent Transformers movie directly contributed to a 30% jump in year-over-year sales for the toy brand—and a 90% jump during the movie window—Hasbro predicted a 13-15% decline in holiday sales during its most recent earnings report, driven by what it calls a “softer toy outlook.”

And Mattel, whose Barbie movie was one of the summer’s key cultural moments, said that while the movie contributed to more than $125 million in sales, it is currently operating in a “challenging macro-economic environment with higher volatility, including inflation,” that could negatively impact consumer demand.

“[B]oth agreed these breakout product lines won’t be enough to light up Christmas,” said Quartz.

The two toy giants generate an estimated $11 billion in combined revenue, and in April signed a multi-year licensing agreement to collaborate on co-branded toys and games. Who can’t wait to see Barbie transform into a Corvette?

Chris Powell