It seems lately, Big Tech should have everything to fear, including fear itself. Regulators are coming for them. As are the press. Heck, they’re even coming for each other.
They’ve got gazillions of dollars and endless resources, they’re going to be just fine. But hopefully, by now, one thing is clear: they will pivot at a moment’s notice to save their business. Or pursue growth. Or boost revenues. Whatever strategy best suits them at the time.
Yet, we recently conducted a poll that revealed as many as one-third of marketers are still relying on Big Tech companies to support their future marketing plans.
Make no mistake. These companies revolutionized digital marketing. They offered real measurement and real ROI. Targeting that was never before available. They’ve made it possible for some companies to launch and thrive.
It’s also true that along the way, they got greedy. Sloppy. Played a little fast and loose with ethics. Turned their backs on the very partners they once coveted.
Bottom line: Marketers’ future with Big Tech is uncertain at best.
In that spirit, here are five reasons to think twice before entering into a long-term relationship with any of these companies:
- They may not share your ethics. The Facebook Papers are yielding a seemingly unending trove of revelations about how the company conducts business. We’re understanding the negative impacts they have on teen girls. Learning that they prioritized ‘angry’ emoji reaction posts in news feeds. And potentially much worse. The point is growth at all costs comes at a price and Facebook has shown time and again it’s willing to pay the price. Marketers have to ask themselves if alignment with these companies is a representation of their own values. Facebook is hardly alone on this front. They just happen to be grabbing this week’s headlines.
- They don’t care about your business. They want your business, sure. But they don’t really care if it thrives or dies. Case in point: Apple snaps its fingers on privacy with iOS 15 and promptly disrupts major ad channels. Even giants in the biz stumbled. Snap recently disclosed that despite daily active users rising from 293 million to 306 million, ad revenues fell as a result of Apple restricting the ability to measure digital ads. The company reported that the changes have upended many of the industry norms and advertiser behaviors that had been built over the past decade. Gone. Poof! A “proverbial nail in the coffin,” indeed.
- They’re not always straight with you. Remember when Facebook misrepresented video ad views? Remember just last month how we learned they have been double-counting users, overstating how many people actually exist in certain demos? Google and Facebook have both been known to stretch the truth in congressional hearings. If they’re not upfront in televised hearings, why would things be any different in private dealings with marketers?
- They rig the game. Advertising is hard enough. So when we learn about shady, backdoor deals meant to benefit those in power, it can be frustrating to say the least. Earlier this year, it was reported that Google operated a secret program that used data from past bids in the company’s digital advertising exchange to allegedly give its own ad-buying system an advantage over competitors. Then there was the deal with Facebook that allegedly guaranteed the social network would both bid in – and win – a fixed percentage of ad auctions. A new lawsuit argues Google’s business practices inflate ad costs and suppress competition from rival exchanges while limiting websites’ options for ad delivery. It’s not enough that Google takes a cut of 22% to 42% of U.S. ad spending that goes through its systems – they’ve gotta squeeze the little guys down the line on top of it.
- Their future biz models are in jeopardy. If you’re in the mood for some light reading, check out the nearly 75-page report the FTC just dropped offering a candid look at “what ISPs know about you.” Hint: it’s so, so, so, so much. If you read just one page, skip to 32 where they break down what the latest internet-based advertising models look like. The very brief summary is that your internet searches are being packaged up by your ISP and sold to ad affiliates with ever-expanding identity graphs. That data ultimately makes its way into marketer campaigns. Many industries have inconvenient truths lurking way down the supply chain. For marketers, this is a big one. Besides being ethically dubious, it could soon be illegal, as the FTC puts the practice in its national crosshairs. So much for coming up with a proper cookieless path forward.
So what does all this mean for your future ad strategy? Well, there will be some hard decisions to make about who to call a partner.
Business models aside, do some of these companies have values that align with your own? Can you be sure they won’t make changes on a whim that will leave you high and dry? Will you be able to tell if you’re being taken advantage of?
The trends are pointing to the need for more transparency and more oversight. It’s simply unclear how this will impact ad plays on the big digital platforms.
In the meantime, personally identifiable information (PII) is answering the call for ethically-sourced, permissioned, ROI-enhancing, and transparent data that will never leave a question as to where you stand. It’s powerful enough to build a strong marketing foundation upon and sufficiently solid to where the winds of change (be them from government or consumers) won’t easily cause everything to come toppling down.
What approach are you betting your long-term strategy on?