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Amazon is getting more crowded for advertisers and sellers

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A recent search for lipstick on Amazon showed a Revlon ad at the top of the page that promoted a pack of themed lipsticks created with Amazon for the Prime Video show, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Underneath that ad, a Burt’s Bees lipstick was labeled as an “Amazon’s Choice” product, helping it appear high up in search results. Further down the page, an “editorial recommendations” section showed lipsticks picked by InStyle magazine as part of an Amazon affiliate program, followed by lipsticks that offer quick shipping through Amazon Prime.

The example shows how Amazon’s approach to advertising is getting harder for advertisers to navigate.

After years of Amazon testing and adding new ad formats and retail placements on its platform, some advertisers now say it’s getting harder for them to stand out.

Some of Amazon’s tests like mobile video ads are available for advertisers to buy. Others support Amazon’s own private-label products and programs like Amazon’s Choice that are run by Amazon’s retail teams and are not available to advertisers.

“It makes it hard for an advertiser to figure out how to best position their brand because it’s largely out of their control,” said Travis Johnson, head of Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amazon-focused arm Sellwin Consulting. “It feels as though lots of brands are getting hijacked at the last minute by all of these labels and badges across their products.”

Read more: Inside Amazon’s growing ad business: Everything we know about how the e-commerce giant is making inroads with marketers

A spokesperson for Amazon pushed back on the idea that its promotions and retail programs hurt advertisers, pointing to 150 new tools the company has rolled out this year to help third-party sellers. The tools include new bidding controls and dashboards that sellers can use to promote their products.

“We continue adding tools to help selling partners maximize advertising effectiveness,” said the spokesperson. “We’re also creating more opportunities for brands to focus on storytelling – helping customers to easily shop for and discover brands in our store, in the same way we work to make it easy for them to find, discover, and buy great products from across our vast selection.”

Brands have to fend off competitors on Amazon

In interviews with a handful of agencies, sources named a few new placements that show how the number of placements on Amazon are growing and getting harder to cut through.

For example, a placement being tested called posts shows a carousel of recommended items that users can browse and buy from product pages. Sellers cannot pay for their products to appear in the carousel, but Johnson said he expected that would change and that advertisers will eventually have to pay if they want to keep competitors from showing their own products.

Another example is a new ad format called sponsored display that uses machine learning to target shoppers. The ad format shows up on Amazon product pages — including those of the advertiser’s competition — and on external publishers’ websites.

Melissa Burdick, president of Pacvue, which helps brands buy Amazon ads programmatically, estimated that about 30% of copy on a seller’s product pages actually ends up promoting other products. It’s formats like these that she said Amazon often tests and introduces, making it hard for advertisers to keep up.

“There’s no announcement, it just rolls out — the bigger challenge is explaining that to executives who aren’t in it everyday,” she said.

Ad prices are a mixed bag for advertisers

With more placements in search results and on product pages, agencies are seeing a mixed bag in pricing.

Marin Software found that prices for sponsored brands and sponsored products, two of Amazon’s most popular ad formats, have decreased over the past year. In August, the average cost-per-click of Amazon’s ads was $1.17, down from $1.46 in the same month last year, according to the company.

But John Ghiorso, founder and CEO of Amazon ad agency OrcaPacific, said that the cost-per-click for all Amazon ad formats has has increased by a low double-digit percentage over the past year.

“The easy wins that a lot of brands could get two or three years ago by just showing up are not nearly as available,” he said.

Advertisers are learning new ways to hack Amazon

Ghiorso said advertisers are increasingly using vendors to help them navigate Amazon’s ad business. Amazon even put out a directory to help advertisers find such companies.

“If you look hard enough and are sophisticated enough, there’s still a lot of positive ROI opportunity there — it just isn’t staring itself in the face like it used to be,” he said.

OrcaPacific has used third-party tools to do sophisticated targeting like day-parting. It found that the best time to advertise toys on Amazon is between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. when parents are home, for example.

Another agency, Mindshare, tried to hack Amazon’s algorithm of recommended products. The agency worked with Cheerios to offer a free box of cereal to shoppers who spent more than $40 on Amazon Prime Day in 2018. Sending out the boxes got Cheerios to be a “recommended” product on Amazon that appears at the top of searches for “cereal.”

“It is only too crowded if the message being delivered to you is not customized to what you want,” said Jeff Malmad, executive director and lead at Shop+ at Mindshare US.



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Read retired Navy SEAL William McRaven’s speech to MIT’s Class of 2020

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  • William H. McRaven is a retired four-star admiral in the US Navy where he served for 37 years, former chancellor of the University of Texas system, and former foreign policy advisor to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
  • In his commencement address to MIT’s class of 2020, he shared what he believes to be the most important qualities to nurture in today’s world: courage, humility, perseverance, and compassion.
  • McRaven said that above all, in order to be great and do your part to save the world, you have to be willing to sacrifice everything.
  • Read the full transcript of McRaven’s speech below.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Thank you very much for that kind introduction. President Reif, distinguished guests, members of the faculty, and of course, the MIT graduating class of 2020. It is truly an honor for me to have the opportunity to address you today.

I had an entirely different speech prepared for this afternoon. It was a nice little speech. It was about how you, the brilliant men and women of MIT are like the Navy SEALs of academia. I made some good analogies. I had some cute little anecdotes and some lessons from my career. But somehow, that speech just didn’t seem right in light of all that has happened in the past five months. The fact that I am standing here alone, and that you are isolated somewhere at home, is proof enough that the world has changed.

But there is a part of the speech that I retained. It was the part about heroes and how after all these years I came to realize that the heroes we need are not the heroes I had been looking for. When I was a young boy growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, I always envisioned myself as the hero. I always wanted to be Superman, with his powers to fly, with his invulnerability, with his super strength. A hero who saved the world every day from some catastrophe. Or Batman, Spiderman, the Black Panther, the team of the X-men, and the Fantastic Four, and my favorite of all — Aquaman. I so wanted to ride on the back of a seahorse and fight evil underwater.

But as I grew up and travelled the world, and as I saw more than my share of war and destruction — I came to the hard truth that Captain America isn’t coming to the rescue. There is no Superman, no Batman, no Wonder Woman, no Black Widow, no Avengers, no Justice League, no Gandolf, no Harry Potter, and no Aquaman. If we are going to save the world from pandemics, war, climate change, poverty, racism, extremism, intolerance — then you, the brilliant minds of MIT — you are going to have to save the world.

But, as remarkable as you are, your intellect and talent alone will not be sufficient. I have seen my share of real heroes, on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the hospitals fighting COVID-19, on the streets keeping America safe and open — and I know that there are other qualities necessary to be today’s hero. So, if you will bear with this old sailor for a minute or two, I would like to offer some thoughts on the other qualities you will need to help save the world.

First, you must have courage. Winston Churchill once said that courage was the most important quality of all because it guaranteed all the rest. He was not just talking about the physical courage to charge the hill, run into a burning building, or stop a madman with a gun. He was also talking about moral courage. The courage to stand up for your convictions. Physical courage has long been the hallmark of a great warrior, but I would offer that the moral courage to stand up for what’s right has an equal place in the pantheon of heroes.

If you hope to save the world you will have to standby your convictions. You will have to confront the ignorant with facts. You will have to challenge the zealots with reason. You will have to defy the naysayers and the weak-kneed who have not the constitution to stand tall. You will have to speak truth to power.

But if your cause is good and decent and worthy and honorable and has the possibility of saving even one of God’s creatures, then you must do what all heroes do. You must summon the courage to fight and fight hard for your convictions. You must yell them from the mountaintop. You must shout them from the lectern. You must write in bold, cursive, and underlined phrases. You must bring your convictions out from the darkness and the subtly of your heart — into the light of day. They must be made public and challenged and confronted and argued.

There will always be those who don’t want to hear your convictions. Particularly if they are true.

Speaking the truth can be dangerous at times. But those that came before you, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Madam Curie, Grace Hooper, and Katherine Johnson — those brilliant minds, those tellers of truth, who made the world a more knowledgeable place, a more compassionate place, a more livable place, they had courage. If you are going to save the world, you will need courage.

If you are going to save the world, you will need to be humble. In my career, I have been blessed to be around some great minds. I have seen how the brilliant men and women have helped eradicate disease, reduce poverty, create technological masterpieces but, conversely I have seen how the misguided geniuses, filled with conceit and convinced of their own righteousness, have tampered with nature, built apocalyptic machines, dehumanized social interaction, and tilted toward tyranny. If you do not approach the world with humility, it will find a way to humble you quickly.

I found in my time in the military that no experience on earth was more humbling than combat. The crucible of war teaches you everyday that you are not invincible — that the enemy in bare feet and carrying only Kalashnikovs can sometimes defeat the best soldiers and the best technology in the world.

And if you believe for a moment that you are superior, you will be humbled quickly. But if you approach every mission with a decent respect for the mountains, the rivers, the oceans, and the enemy — you are more likely to succeed.

In Plato’s great rendition of Socrates Apology, Socrates defends the charges against him by telling the jury of Athenian nobles that he is the wisest man in the world — far wiser than any of the robed men sitting in judgment. When questioned about how he could be so bold as to make this statement, Socrates says that he is the wisest because he knows so very little of the world. To solve the world’s problems you will have to realize how little you know. You must be able to look to the stars, peer through a microscope, gaze at the ocean — and be humbled.

To believe for even a moment that you have all the answers, that you know the truth of the universe, that you are wiser than all the men and women who came before you, is the tale of every great man and woman who amounted to nothing. Only when you are humble, only when you realize the limits of your understanding, the shortfalls of your knowledge, the boundaries of your intellect — only then can you find the answers you are seeking.

If you are going to save the world you must persevere through the difficult times. Life as a SEAL is all about perseverance. Can you make it through SEAL training without ringing the bell? Can you make it through the long family separations, the exhausting deployments, the loss of a fellow warrior in combat? Sometimes saving the world is just about holding on. Never quitting no matter what obstacles face you.

A good friend of mine, who graduated from the University of Texas in 1969, pursued a career in medicine. His mother had died of Lymphoma when he was eleven and he was obsessed with finding a cure. For decades, he pursued an idea that most in the medical field dismissed as fantasy. Could the human body really use its own immune system to fight cancer? He never gave up on his pursuit and in 2018, Dr. Jim Allison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

There are the occasional great men and women of science who changed history at an early age, but most discoveries, most achievements, most triumphs are the product of a long and painful process and only the most resolute, the ones that can persevere through the failure, the rejection, the ridicule, the emotional and physical strain of time — those are the ones most likely to save the world.

If you hope to save the world, you must be prepared to sacrifice. The special operation forces are filled with memorials of remarkable men and women who gave their all in the defense of the nation. Medal of Honor recipients like Mike Murphy, Mike Monsoor, John Chapman, and Robby Miller. Remarkable women like Ashley White and Jennifer Moreno. The heroes of helicopters Turbine 33 and Extortion 17 — SEALs and soldiers who answered the call and never returned. All great Americans who sacrificed their lives so that their teammates might live.

But, there is a more mundane, yet still essential sacrifice, that is required if you want to want to save the world. As SEALs we train every day. Long tortuous hours of hard physical pain, ruck sac marches, open ocean swims, miles of running, and hours of calisthenics. They are all sacrifices necessary to be ready — when the world needs you.

In his time, Thomas Edison developed 1,500 patents. From the electric light, to the phonograph, to the movie camera, to the vacuum diode, and the carbon microphone. He saved the world from darkness. But in doing so it required him to work 20 hour days, his home front was often strained, his other business ventures struggled to survive, and his health always seemingly in jeopardy.

It would be easy to stand up here and tell you that there is wondrous place where you can be great at both work… and life, where your efforts to make a difference in the world come easy — but I have never found that place. In the end, if your goal is a noble one, then your sacrifice will be worth it. And you will be proud of what you have accomplished.

To save the world, you will have to be men and women of great integrity. Always trying to do what is moral, legal and ethical. It will not be easy and I dare say, you will fail occasionally. You will fail because you are human. You will fail because life often forces you into a seemingly untenable position. You will fail because good and evil are always in conflict.

And when you fail to uphold your integrity, it should make you sick to your stomach. It should give you sleepless nights. You should be so tortured that you promise yourself never to do it again. You see, being a hero will not be easy. It will not be easy because, you are not men and women of steel, you are not cloaked in a suit of armor, you are not infused with unearthly powers — you are real heroes. And what makes real heroes are their struggles and their ability to overcome them.

But no matter how mightily you might struggle, the world will believe in you, follow you, allow themselves to be saved — if they know you to be honest, trustworthy, of good character and good faith. Men and women of integrity.

Finally, to save the world, you must have compassion. You must ache for the poor and disenfranchised. You must fear for the vulnerable. You must weep for the ill and infirmed. You must pray for those who are without hope. You must be kind to less fortunate. For what hero gives so much of themselves, without caring for those they are trying to save.

As we sign off from this virtual commencement, I want you to promise me one thing.

Promise me that you will be the last class — the last class to miss a commencement — because of a pandemic. The last class to miss a commencement because of war. The last class to miss a commencement because of climate change, unrest, tyranny, extremism, active shooters, intolerance, and apathy.

Batman and Superman are not coming to save the world. It will be up to you. But never, never in my life, have I been so confident that the fate of the world is in good hands. Go forth and be the heroes we need you to be.

Thank you and congratulations!



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Trump defends his ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’ tweet

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  • President Trump attempted to clarify his early Friday morning tweet that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” writing on Friday afternoon that the controversial tweet was “spoken as a fact.” 
  • Twitter flagged Trump’s initial tweet for violating their policies against glorifying violence.
  • “It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement,” Trump said. “It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump tried to explain his “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet about the protests in Minneapolis, confusingly claiming the remarks — which Twitter flagged as glorifying violence — were “spoken as a fact, not as a statement.”

At around 1 am on Friday, Trump threatened to send the military into Minneapolis as protests and widespread unrest escalated in response to the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, who died shortly after being violently arrested by four police officers in the city.

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Twitter then posted a “public interest notice” on the tweet, blocking users from liking, replying, or retweeting it but leaving it up and available to view. 

On Friday afternoon, Trump attempted to clarify his comments in another Twitter thread.

“Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot,” Trump tweeted, referring to people who were shot as part of separate protests over the shooting death of Breoanna Taylor, a black woman in Kentucky killed in her own home as part of no-knock police raid. 

“It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement,” Trump continued. “It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media. Honor the memory of George Floyd!”

Trump tweet

Trump’s original tweet posted early on Friday morning, which Twitter flagged as violating its rules.

Screenshot via Twitter


In a series of tweets, Twitter’s communications team explained that the language “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” ran afoul of their policies against promoting and glorifying violence “based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”

As Insider reported earlier today, the line “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” was first coined in the 1960s by Walter Headley, a former chief of the Miami Police Department, whose actions in the position were responsible for racial unrest and riots in that city. 

On Friday afternoon, prosecutors announced one of the officers involved who was caught on video pinning his knee on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, had been taken into custody and charged with third degree murder. 





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Most watched TV shows of the year, according to Nielsen ratings

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  • The most watched shows of the 2019-2020 TV season, according to Nielsen ratings, are largely an assortment of familiar network dramas and sitcoms.
  • But ESPN’s acclaimed docuseries “The Last Dance” also snagged a spot and was especially popular among adults aged 18 to 49.
  • Business Insider broke down the 41 most popular TV shows of the season.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Nielsen’s most watched TV shows of the 2019-2020 season — from the fall until now — is largely a collection of familiar network procedurals and sitcoms, from “The Conners” to “NCIS.”

But ESPN’s hit Chicago Bulls docuseries, “The Last Dance,” stands out. The series was watched by more than 6 million viewers, according to Nielsen, and cracked the top five in the ratings for adults aged 18-49.

ESPN said earlier this month that “The Last Dance” was its most watched documentary of all time. The first two episodes were the two most watched original broadcasts across ESPN’s networks since 2004.

The rest of the list is dominated by CBS, with shows like “Yong Sheldon” and “Bull,” followed by NBC, particularly with its fan-favorite “Chicago” franchise.

Fox was the biggest loser on the list of most watched shows, with just two programs: “9-1-1” and its spinoff, “Lone Star.”

We ranked the top shows by total viewers according to Nielsen and excluded reality competition series and live sporting events. The list only includes linear TV programming in the US, not streaming shows on services like Netflix.

Below are the 41 most watched shows of the 2019-2020 TV season, according to Nielsen:



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