EssenceMediacom's Laura Wade on Sustainability in Fashion, Retail Tech and the Green Potential of AI

On this week's MadTech Podcast, Laura Wade, EssenceMediacom's VP, sustainability, joins ExchangeWire head of content John Still and COO Lindsay Rowntree to discuss sustainability within ad tech, focusing on consumer demands around ESG in the UK, Walmart's foray into tech, Character.AI's USD$1bn (~£845m) valuation and more.

Four in five UK consumers could boycott apparel brands that fall short on ESG commitments 

Is consumer demand the flashpoint to drive change? How can brands and agencies adapt?

Fashion brands must prioritise an environmental and social agenda in order to survive or risk losing a huge percentage of custom, according to new consumer research. 

The study – commissioned by ecommerce growth specialists Quickfire Digital and digital performance marketing experts Climbing Trees – identified that four in five UK consumers (81%) will boycott apparel brands who do not prioritise sustainable fashion within the next two years; potentially having a detrimental impact on those brands who do not uphold their social and environmental responsibilities.

Could Walmart's foray into tech earn it a higher valuation?

Does this move elevate Walmart’s status? What benefits can retailers see from diversification? 

Walmart is launching a high-margin, high-growth-rate tech businesses for the retail industry. This could change financial markets’ perception of the company’s growth potential and help it achieve a higher valuation than traditional grocery retail.

Armed with data from its 37m daily global customers and one of the world’s most efficient supply chains, Walmart has been rolling out a suite of omnichannel tech products. In January, the retail giant announced it would make several of its fulfilment and delivery tech products available to other retailers via Salesforce’s app marketplace.

Chatbot Character.ai valued at $1bn in Andreessen-led funding round

Are we at the top of AI’s hype-cycle yet? What can AI really bring to the ad industry?

Marc Andreessen’s venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has led an investment of more than USD$200m (~£169m) into generative artificial intelligence chatbot company Character.ai, marking the early internet pioneer’s first significant foray into the booming sector. 

The investment of between USD$200m - USD$250m (~£169m - £211m) values the company at about USD$1bn (~£845m), according to multiple people with knowledge of the deal terms. Character.ai uses large language models — the technology that underlies chatbot ChatGPT — to generate conversation in the style of various characters, including Tesla chief executive Elon Musk and Nintendo character Mario, from user prompts.