Ad Duopoly: Missing Some Points?

September 19, 2022

The newspaper disguised as a magazine published “The $300B Google Meta Advertising Duopoly Is Under Attack” is interesting. The write up is what I would expect from a couple of MBAs beavering away a blue chip consulting firm. If you are curious, read the story for which you will have to pay. The story sparked some comments on HackerNews. These are interesting and some of the comments contain more insightful information than the Under Attack write up itself. Here’s a few comments to illustrate this point:

  • Sam Willis: To some extent I disagree with this, not that Google+Meta are under attack, but that the threat is coming from competitors. I’ve spent most of the last 10 years earning my living from an e-commerce business I own. The online advertising industry is unrecognisable from when we started. My thesis, in beef, is that the industries excessive uses of personalised data and tracking lead to increased regulation, and then a massive pivot to even more “AI” as a means to circumvent that (to some extent). The AI in the ad industry now, I believe, is detrimental to the advertiser. It’s now just one big black box, you put money in one side and get traffic out the other. The control and useful tracking (what actual search terms people are using, proper visible conversion tracking of an ad) is now almost non-existent. As an advertiser your livelihood is dependent on an algorithm, not skill, not intuition, not experience, not even track record. Facebook, Google and the rest of the industry were so driven by profit at all cost, and at the expense of long term thinking, they shot themselves in the foot. Advertisers are searching for alternatives, but they are all the same.
  • Justin Baker 84: Usually people need to get ripped off a few times before they accept that fact that Google is no longer a good actor.
  • Missedthecue: I get billed for so many accidental clicks.
  • Heavyset: Google Knows Best™ and lack of real competition or regulation means they can do whatever they want.
  • Prepend: I remember talking to some friends in Google and but estimated their error/fraud rate to be about 1/3 of ad revenue. But they have no motivation to fix it and no one outside Google has the data to tell.
  • MichaelCollins: Organizations that are trying to do something disreputable or shameful (or just something that could be construed that way by a nontrivial portion of the population) often come up with sweet little lies about their motives that help their employees sleep better at night. It’s not about making money by serving ads, it’s about “organizing the world’s data”. It’s not about winning defense contracts to put military hardware into space, it’s about “colonizing mars to save humanity”. It’s not about printing money by getting poor people to sign up for 50,000% APR payday loans, it’s about “providing liquidity to undeserved communities”. Etc.
  • Addicted: If you don’t pay Google/Facebook you’re absolutely screwed. You will lose no matter how good the product is. What this actually means is that now companies have to pay a Google/Meta tax simply to enter the playing field. And once they enter the playing field. And once you enter the playing field, the only winners will be the ones who pay them the highest amount of money. So a smaller business, which in the past could potentially use some ingenuity, or target a specific niche audience to get some traction and then build word of mouth and let the product do the talking, doesn’t even stand a chance now because they simply cannot differentiate themselves as your exposure is entirely dependent on how much money you give Google/Meta.

Dozens of useful comments appear in the HackerNews post. Worth scanning them in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2022

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