What’s Next for Advertisers on Twitter with Elon Musk as an Owner?

What’s Next for Advertisers on Twitter with Elon Musk as an Owner?

Twitter

Will advertisers leave Twitter under Elon Musk’s ownership? That question is getting bandied about a lot these days. That’s because of widespread speculation that Musk will relax Twitter’s content moderation policies. This, in turn, could conceivably create brand safety issues by making controversial content more prevalent on the app, which has nearly 400 million monthly active users. For example, Advertising Age reported that “Marketers are worried that Musk will reopen the floodgates on uncivil behavior on the platform.” Ad agencies consulted by Ad Age said that their clients are increasingly asking about the risks of staying on Twitter. Here’s what I think will happen:

  • Some advertisers will flee Twitter and never return.
  • Some advertisers will put Twitter advertising on pause but eventually return to Twitter.
  • Most advertisers will do nothing.

The fact of the matter is this: advertisers have shown by their actions that they have a higher tolerance for social media controversy than news media reports might have you believe. We have seen time and again controversies erupt on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Most recently, Facebook became the target of widespread public scorn after whistle blower Frances Haugen, an ex-Facebook employee, shared internal documents that showed Facebook executives knowingly allowed its algorithm to publish harmful and divisive content on users’ news feeds.

The resulting expose, published in The Wall Street Journal, also sparked speculation that advertisers would leave Facebook. Some did. But most did not. Why? Because the fact that a publisher and aggregator of news content (which is what Facebook does) knowingly shares divisive information was not exactly shocking news to advertisers. Mainstream news media have been attracting audiences by publishing divisive content for decades, long before the internet existed. And they’re doing so today. As a result, advertisers have a higher tolerance for conflict than Facebook’s critics did.

What really hurt Facebook was Apple. Facebook’s parent, Meta, disclosed recently that the company would suffer a $10 billion revenue hit in 2022 because of the impact of Apple’s iPhone privacy controls launched in 2021. Meta’s stock tanked dramatically so as a result. Why? Because privacy controls would likely make ad targeting more difficult on Facebook. It was ad targeting, not a Wall Street Journal expose about the company’s culture, governance, and content policies, that hurt Facebook.

The real concern among advertisers is not whether controversial content will appear on Twitter. The fact is that controversial content already does appear on Twitter. Advertisers are more concerned that their ads could appear alongside controversial content. This is more of an issue with how an app manages its algorithm. YouTube, for instance, landed in hot water recently because advertisers’ content was appearing alongside hate speech, but most advertisers understood then (and understand now) that it’s impossible to stamp out hate speech completely. Many more also understand that controversial content is not necessarily hate speech. These realities are part of being a brand on social media – and they always have been.

Twitter has been down this road before, too, such as when a major hack involving a crypto currency scam embarrassed the platform and cast a spotlight on how easy it is for bad actors to exploit Twitter to commit crimes. Or when the proliferation of trolls and bots threatened Twitter’s reputation. Advertisers were concerned, to be sure, but for the most part they reacted by pressuring Twitter to improve its algorithm as opposed to demanding wide-scale changes in how Twitter operates fundamentally.

My advice to advertisers is:

  • Keep advertising on Twitter if you are satisfied with your results so far.
  • Monitor brand safety closely, but that’s true whether you are advertising on Twitter or any other social media app.
  • Watch where your audience goes. There is a very real possibility that ongoing controversy at Twitter could cause a drop in users. The question is whether your audience will leave Twitter. It’s a question. It’s not a certainty. Work with your agency partner to keep tabs on the situation, but don’t make assumptions based on news headlines.

True Interactive monitors developments on social media all the time as part of being a well-informed partner to our clients. Keep watching this blog for updates.

Contact True Interactive

To maximize the value of your social media advertising, contact True Interactive. Our expertise in this area delivers measurable value to our clients.

Twitter image by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

Elon Musk image by https://pixabay.com/illustrations/elon-musk-space-elon-spacex-tesla-6222396/

 

Meta Misses the Mark; How Should Advertisers React?

Meta Misses the Mark; How Should Advertisers React?

Facebook Meta

Over the years, Facebook has been a Teflon brand. No matter how many controversies and setbacks the company has faced, it has seen its stock price and market capitalization soar. But all that changed on February 2 when Facebook’s parent company Meta announced earnings for the fourth quarter 2021. The company:

  • Missed its earnings estimates.
  • Reported that Facebook’s global daily active users declined from the previous quarter to 1.929 billion from 1.930 billion. Although Facebook has experienced drops in the United States before, this was the first time the world’s most popular social platform had experienced a decline in its user base.
  • Forecast weaker-than-expected revenue growth for the next quarter.
  • Said that the company would suffer a $10 billion revenue hit in 2022 because of the impact of Apple’s iPhone privacy controls launched in 2021.

Investors were stunned. The next day, Meta suffered a 26 percent drop in its stock price – the largest single-day drop in history. Not just for Meta. For any company.

Companies can have a bad quarter. But why did Meta suffer a historic drop in its stock price? There is no single, clear-cut answer. But a few factors no doubt played a role:

  • The drop in users, although not massive, stoked concerns that Facebook is finally beginning to feel the impact of its ongoing brand safety controversies and indifference from the growing Gen Z population. Losing members can be a red flag for advertisers, and Facebook needs advertising revenue to succeed.
  • Meta surprised investors by saying it still has not recovered from the impact of Apple’s consumer privacy controls. In 2021, Apple altered its operating system to require apps to get a person’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. This move curtailed the ability for advertisers and ad platforms such as Facebook to target digital ads across the web. Ad platforms such as Snapchat and Twitter said that the restrictions were either not hurting them or that they had figured out satisfactory ways to keep creating effective ads despite the existence of the privacy controls. It was alarming to hear that Meta had not figured out a solution yet.
  • Meta’s big bet on the next generation of the internet, the metaverse, is costing the company – a lot. Meta said that the company spent $10 billion in 2021 on various products that form the building blocks of the metaverse. That spend hurt profits. And the metaverse is still many years away, which has made investors ask: just how much is the metaverse going to cost Meta?

Even still, Facebook achieved $33.67 billion in ad revenue for the quarter, which was better than expected. Should Facebook’s advertisers be concerned? As an agency that helps many businesses build their brands and convert customers through Facebook advertising, we believe that if you advertise on Facebook, you should:

  • Keep advertising on Facebook if you are satisfied with your results so far. Based on our client work, Facebook continues to drive conversions even though the cost per conversion has increased and conversion rates are lower. Facebook remains an efficient and cost-effective alternative to competing platforms.
  • Adapt to the new reality of Facebook advertising. One of the challenges with Facebook advertising under Apple’s privacy controls is having access to less user data for targeting various audience segments with ads. We’ve been working with Facebook to develop workarounds such grouping our clients’ target audiences together to give the Facebook algorithm more data to work with a (as opposed to breaking up audiences into separate groups). We’ve also removed audience exclusions from campaigns. After we aggregated audience data and removed exclusions, we gradually began to see an improvement in ad conversions following a drop resulting from the privacy controls.
  • Keep an eye on the decline in users. Understand where they’re going when they leave Facebook. In particular, Facebook said that TikTok has emerged as a much stronger competitor. TikTok is especially red hot with the Gen Z generation. In addition, monitor sentiment among your audiences, foremost your customers. In light of Facebook’s ongoing controversies over privacy and the publication of harmful content, are your customers expressing concern? Is your brand safety at risk? (This may or may not be the case. As we’ve blogged before, social media will always be a messy place to live, and many brand have learned to live alongside that reality.

Advertisers have more choices than ever – emerging apps such as TikTok, retailer ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising, to name a few. The well-established ad platforms such as Google continue to launch new products. As always, we urge advertisers to stay on top of the evolving market. At True Interactive, we advocate for our clients by understanding how the ad industry is changing so that we can maximize clients’ return on ad spend. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

Photo by Dima Solomin on Unsplash

2022 Advertising and Marketing Predictions

2022 Advertising and Marketing Predictions

Advertising

Welcome to a new, adventurous year of advertising and marketing. The traditional tech giants are going to continue to fight each other for dominance – while TikTok will tap into the burgeoning creator economy to challenge them all for a slice of the advertising pie. Retailers everywhere are creating ad networks, but Amazon and Walmart have already established strong leadership early on. For the most part, businesses will be spending more – more on TikTok, more on Amazon, more on Google, and probably more on Apple’s fledgling ad business. But will they spend more on Meta? Read on for our insights into the year ahead.

Retailer Media Networks Proliferate – and Meta Loses Ground

One of the big stories of 2021 was the proliferation of media businesses operated by retailers such as Amazon, Macy’s, Target, and Walmart. In 2022, we’ll see more of them. Retailers are under great pressure to squeeze more margin out of their core businesses as the industry endures uncertainty. The most well established networks – Amazon and Walmart – are thriving because they tap into the data they collect about their customers (first-party data) to sell targeted advertising on their sites. In 2022, more retailers will use first-party data to help businesses create more targeted ads off-site, too, as an antidote to Apple’s privacy controls. In addition, non-retailers with large troves of first-party data, such as TikTok, will expand the same way.

I also believe Meta’s ongoing push into immersive reality will lose momentum. Meta has made an even bigger push into immersive reality (e.g., virtual reality and augmented reality) as part of its attempt to become the builder of the metaverse. Meta also intends for immersive reality to help the company maintain a dominant hold on social media and to squeeze upstarts such as Roblox out of the market. But the horse is already out of the barn: there are just too many players such as Roblox and Snapchat developing immersive reality applications for Meta to play copycat and use its size as an an advantage. And Meta has faced so much public blowback over its size and reach that squeezing out smaller players makes Meta more of a target for anti-trust regulation. Meta will lose ground, and gaming platforms such as Roblox will ascend in power.

— Tim Colucci, vice president, digital marketing

TikTok Dominates

TikTok is the world’s most visited site in the Internet in 2021, toppling Google, according to Cloudfare. TikTok will become the leader in paid social. Videos and fast-breaking cultural trends are becoming more prominent factors across all social media marketing, and TikTok has mastered both. Oh, and TikTok has another big trump card to play: the site is a magnet for Gen Z and Millennials, who together comprise about 42 percent of the U.S. population. As a recent New York Times profile noted, advertisers “are present like never before, their authentic-seeming advertisements dropped in between dances, confessionals, comedy routines and makeovers.” But TikTok is just beginning to monetize all that interest from advertisers. TikTok will follow the example set by Amazon Advertising and roll out more ad units that capitalize on the customer data the company is collecting. And look to TikTok to become a social commerce giant. If you thought 2021 was the year of TikTok, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

— Bella Schneider, digital marketing manager

The Creator Economy Gets Real

The creator economy refers to a class of businesses comprising millions of independent content creators and influencers. We are reading more about them partly because apps such as TikTok have given them more power and influence. The creator economy will become even more powerful. That’s because collaboration networks are proliferating. These networks give creators an all-in-one platform to create communities and build influence. In addition, gaming sites such as Roblox and Twitch offer creators opportunities to monetize their work with potential partnerships with brands, and crypto currency sites such as Rally.io make it possible for creators to mint their own currency. The big social networks such as Meta are responding by making themselves more attractive to creators. More businesses will tap into niche networks to partner with emerging creators who are lesser-known but possess tremendous street cred. Big-name partnerships with stars will still thrive, but the social media icons will need to make room for the new kids in town.

— Mark Smith, co-founder

Tech Titans Roar

We hear a lot about the big technology firms facing increased scrutiny from Congress and legislators around the world. But to me the more intriguing story is how the tech titans keep trying to outmuscle each other for advertising revenue, an example being Apple enacting privacy controls to hurt Facebook’s ad business. 2022 will ratchet up the fight:

  • Apple will start leveraging and monetizing the data they are collecting (and not allowing others to collect) in the form of some type of advertising platform. This is the culmination of Apple’s stricter privacy controls.
  • Google will remove more visibility and targeting options in the name of advances in machine learning and automation, thus protecting its core ad business by taking more control of it.
  • An increasing number of platforms will emerge that use first-party data to target and track and savvy advertisers will take advantage of this and diversify their advertising spend
  • Amazon will grow with even more ad units for Amazon Advertising and marketing offerings such as livestreamed commerce for businesses of all size, especially smaller ones. Google and Meta will lose market share.

Unfortunately, we can count on CPCs to rise across all platforms as they attract more businesses competing for ad inventory and keywords. It’s going to be a more expensive 2022, but also a more interesting one with more ad units proliferating.

— Kurt Anagnostopoulos, co-founder

Google Ads Become More Powerful

Given the evolution of keyword matching (now AI-powered to serve ads based on the meaning of a search query), and the simplification of the ad product offerings (as Google deprecating Expanded Text Ads next summer), we will see Google Ads become leaner but more powerful. Advertisers will be forced to rely more and more on Google’s algorithm to drive results – all this, at the expense of reduced control advertisers have over campaign settings (ad content, keyword matching, targeting choices, etc.). I believe the biggest changes will continue to happen on Google’s back end as it seeks to make the algorithm (automated bidding strategies used in ad campaigns) smarter. Thus, we will see increased focus on cookie-less conversion tracking and an expansion of first-party data collection capabilities in Google Ads (i.e., scaling up enhanced conversions).

— Héctor Ariza, digital marketing and analytics manager

Social Media Ad Dollars Get Redistributed

Lush Cosmetics recently said it is quitting Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok over concerns that those platforms have a negative impact on teens’ mental health. (The company will remain active on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.) Lush said it will happily lose $13 million in sales because of the digital detox. It remains to be seen whether Lush will reactivate the accounts it quit (Lush quit some social sites in 2019 before returning), and of course a big question is whether more businesses will take such a drastic approach. I don’t think we’ll see more businesses take the Lush approach – social media is just too important – but they will shift some of their ad dollars away from Facebook and Instagram. In the past, businesses have remained loyal to Facebook (now known as Meta) because the site is critical to their advertising and marketing strategies. But the whistleblowing activities of ex-Meta employee Frances Haugen have raised the stakes. She asserted that Meta has kept internal research secret for two years that suggests its Instagram app makes body image issues worse for teenage girls. Businesses will monitor what their customers, investors, and employees say about Meta especially in this era of purpose-driven branding. Some will shift their advertising to Snapchat and TikTok while Meta takes the heat for brand safety issues. But this shift may be temporary. Meta will probably mollify brands with some updates to its products to create more brand safety, as it is already doing with its news feed to address concerns over lack of user control over their news feeds. In addition, Meta faces the ongoing threat of regulatory oversight. More accountability will come to Meta in 2022.

— Beth Bauch, director, digital marketing

Contact True Interactive

To succeed in the ever-changing world of online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/year-2022-track-new-year-calendar-6786741/

 

Why Retailers Are Launching Ad Businesses

Why Retailers Are Launching Ad Businesses

Advertising

Best Buy recently announced the launch of Best Buy Ads, a new in-house media company. Best Buy Ads offer a range of ad units including paid search ads, onsite and offsite display ads, onsite and offsite video ads, social ads, and in-store ads. According to Best Buy, Best Buy Ads capitalizes on the fact that Best Buy interacts with its customers three billion times a year. From those interactions, Best Buy learns about the search and shopping habits of its customers. This makes it possible for the retailer to sell ad units that target a specific demographic: people with a strong interest in consumer technology.

Best Buy is the latest retailer to launch an ad business. Other examples include:

  • Walmart Connect, the leading ad business run by a brick-and-mortar retailer.

As with Best Buy, they offer services ranging from display to media buying. They all have one thing in common: they monetize their customer data.

Why an Ad Business Appeals to a Retailer Like Best Buy

An online advertising business is appealing to Best Buy for a number of reasons, including:

  • This is a proven model. The growth of Amazon Advertising (Amazon’s own in-house ad operation) speaks for itself. Amazon Advertising is so successful that Amazon is now challenging Google’s and Facebook’s dominance of online advertising. In light of this, we’ve witnessed a slew of retailers jumping into the ad business. For example, Walmart Connect (Walmart’s ad operation) has enjoyed strong growth.
  • Customer data is a competitive weapon. Retailers such as Best Buy collect a treasure trove of data about their customers, starting with their search and shopping preferences. This data gives each retailer an edge because they can promise advertisers access to a targeted audience with intent to buy. As noted, Best Buy targets consumers in the market for home electronics. By contrast, the recently launched ad platform from retailer Macy’s targets a fashion-conscious consumer. Walmart promises entrée to grocery shoppers and price-conscious consumers. Of course, retailers must know how to mine all this data and then develop attractive ad units. But the data provides a built-in advantage.
  • Retailers’ customer data is getting more attractive to advertisers. Businesses are looking for alternative ways to reach consumers amid the demise of third-party cookies, which are crucial for third-party ad targeting, and the advent of stricter consumer privacy controls on Apple’s iOS, which has also made it harder for businesses to target consumers with ads. With third-party ad targeting across the web threatened, platforms that give advertisers entree to shoppers within retailers’ walled gardens are more appealing. Basically, retailers are using their own customer data to do what Apple and Google won’t do for advertisers anymore.
  • e-Commerce is booming. Online ad businesses in particular are catching fire because of the e-commerce boom. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, “The e-commerce industry is expected to hold on to pandemic-elevated sales into 2022, with big retailers including Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc set to benefit as consumers stick to new, hybrid shopping patterns.” S&P Global Market Intelligence says U.S. e-commerce sales are on track to exceed $1 trillion for the first time in 2022. Businesses want to reach those shoppers, which creates a demand for online advertising. The surge in online commerce also means more people are using retailers’ sites to search and shop, which creates more valuable customer data that retailers’ ad businesses can monetize. This also means advertising.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Consider retailer-based ad networks as a complement to your existing digital ad strategy, not as a replacement. If your strategy focuses on Facebook and Google, for instance, don’t move your ad dollars over to a retailer network. Remember that Facebook and Google also already offer proven advertising products that capitalize on their vast user base. For example, location-based digital advertising tools help strengthen Google’s advertising services at the local level.
  • Do, however, monitor the effectiveness of your advertising on Facebook and Google amid the demise of third-party cookies and the onset of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, which includes more privacy controls that may make Facebook ads less effective (which remains to be seen).
  • Work with an agency partner that knows the terrain. For instance, at True Interactive, we complement our history of helping businesses advertising on Google and social media with expertise across retailer ad networks such as Amazon and Walmart.
  • Learn more about the ad products that might apply to you – and those products are evolving. In 2022, more retailers will use first-party data to help businesses create more targeted ads off-site – meaning advertising across the web, as well as via connected TV.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

For More Insight

Walgreens Doubles Down on Its Advertising Business,” Tim Colucci, May 19, 2021.

Amazon Unveils New Ad Units Across Its Ecosystem,” Kurt Anagnostopoulos, May 4, 2021.

Why Macy’s Launched an Advertising Platform,” Tim Colucci, March 3, 2021.

Walmart Asserts Its Leadership in Advertising,” Tim Colucci, February 8, 2021.

Why Facebook Launched Shoppable Groups

Why Facebook Launched Shoppable Groups

Facebook

We all need a little help from our friends, and Facebook is leaning into this reality with its Shops in Groups. The social networking behemoth has announced that it will be making it easier to shop for products on the app, using connections with friends and trusted creators to gain inspiration — and find just the right gift. This development underscores how important social media is becoming as the holiday shopping season ramps up.

Facebook Announces Shoppable Groups

Facebook describes its mandate this way: Facebook wants to introduce new tools to “make shopping and buying better on our apps.” And Shops in Groups allows users to support the communities they are interested in by buying products from them. One example? Shops in Groups makes it possible for members of OctoNation, an octopus fan group on Facebook, to directly purchase stickers, mugs, and apparel related to their passion for the eight-limbed mollusks.

TechCrunch describes the new feature as follows: admins of Facebook groups can essentially set up an online store on their associated Facebook Page, and the admins can determine where the money goes. In the case of OctoNation, mentioned above, profits go straight to OctoNation’s nonprofit. And as Yulie Kwon Kim, Meta’s VP of Product Management, notes, the shops can offer a revenue stream to group admins, who tend to be volunteers. She says, “The money goes to the group admin, and they can decide how they want to use it. This is a great way for people to sustain and keep the group going.”

The feature appears to have legs: Ad Age reports that after testing on a smaller number of groups, Facebook is opening up shoppability to another 100,000 groups. And it’s worth noting how flexible the setup can be: groups can link to sites such as a Facebook Shop, Shopify store, or BigCommerce store. Making Groups shoppable is important because, as Facebook points out, more than 1.8 billion people are using Facebook Groups every month.

Facebook Shoppable Groups in the Context of Social Shopping

Facebook is tapping into the rise of social shopping — also known as social commerce. As we’ve blogged, social shopping accelerated in popularity during the pandemic — and it’s showing no sign of slowing down. Social media has evolved along with this trend, working to meet the needs of users who are inspired by what they see online.

The numbers are telling. According to ChannelAdvisor, 57 percent of people aged 26 to 35 had researched a product on Facebook. People on Facebook are not only receptive to social shopping, they are actually doing it. And according to Retail Dive, a whopping 87 percent of Gen Z will be looking to social media for shopping inspiration.

chart showing Instagram usage

Facebook is determined not to miss out on this trend. Moreover, the tech giant wants to give people more reasons to stay engaged with Facebook and use its advertising products.

What Brands Should Do

What does this mean for your brand? We suggest:

  • If you sell products online, consider Facebook as more than an advertising platform. Learn more about features such as Shops in Groups.
  • Master Facebook advertising products that appeal to people on Facebook (or find a partner who can do the heavy lifting for you – we manage Facebook advertising for our clients). The platform is clearly committed to making itself more engaging and useful to users: consider how that investment might benefit your brand.
  • As ever, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Balance your online presence between the major platforms that offer value in advertising — and shoppability.

Contact True Interactive

Eager to explore what Facebook — and other platforms — have to offer your brand? Contact us. We can help. Learn more our social media expertise here and our experience with shopping tools here.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

How Will Facebook’s Reputation Problems Affect Advertisers?

How Will Facebook’s Reputation Problems Affect Advertisers?

Facebook

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you know that Facebook announced the creation of a parent brand known as Meta. Facebook still keeps its name to refer to the social media app. But Meta now coordinates Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and other brands that Facebook has been launching or buying over the years. The announcement cast a spotlight on the fast-growing metaverse. But it also drew attention to Facebook’s ongoing reputation problems, which became more intense in recent weeks with the publication of the Facebook Files in The Wall Street Journal. Many branding experts and industry watchers asked whether the name change will help Facebook overcome its latest reputation crisis. I have another question: how much of a threat is Facebook’s (now Meta’s) reputation crisis in the first place?

According to the Facebook Files, Facebook has knowingly allowed its algorithm to publish harmful and divisive content on users’ news feeds. The accusations have been supported by documents shared by a former employee turned whistleblower, Frances Haugen. She has also shared her findings with Congress. The blowback has been strong. Legislators have accused Facebook of subverting democracy. Facebook bashers have vowed to stop using the app.

But what will advertisers do?

This is an important question. Obviously this is not the first reputation crisis Facebook has encountered — and I’m referring specifically to the social app Facebook, not Meta, WhatsApp, or Instagram. On at least one occasion, some advertisers have responded by boycotting Facebook temporarily or permanently. But Facebook’s advertising growth suggests that the company’s reputation problems have not resulted in a long-term advertising decline. Here are two reasons why:

Advertisers Are Used to Conflict

The fact that a publisher and aggregator of news content (which is what Facebook does) knowingly shares divisive information is not exactly shocking news to advertisers. Mainstream news media have been attracting audiences by publishing divisive content for decades, long before the internet existed. And they’re doing so today. As a result, advertisers probably have a higher tolerance for conflict than Facebook’s critics do. This, to me, is the most powerful and compelling point to bear in mind. Advertisers don’t want their ads to appear alongside inappropriate content. But no one is accusing Facebook of allowing that to happen. The existence of controversial content, in and of itself, probably won’t be enough to create an advertising exodus. So long as Facebook manages brand safety well (a problem that has vexed apps such as YouTube), advertisers will tolerate conflict.

It’s All about the Audience

Facebook’s strategy of building and engaging users has angered critics, but it has also helped Facebook build a bigger user base. This chart from Facebook’s latest earnings announcement is telling:

Facebook UsersAdvertisers are looking at these numbers, too. More users on Facebook is obviously attractive to advertisers. They’re going to go where the users go. It’s a simple as that.

The Real Threat to Facebook

Based on advertiser behavior, the bigger threat to Facebook consists of stronger privacy controls – especially from Apple. As widely reported, Apple rolled out an update to Apple’s operating system in 2021 that included an important privacy control known as Application Tracking Transparency (ATT). ATT requires apps to get a user’s permission before tracking their data across apps owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. Apps can prompt users for permission, and in Apple Settings, users can see which apps have requested permission to track so they can make changes to their choice at any time.

Advertisers have feared that ATT will trigger an uptick in users opting out to having their behavior tracked. Consequently, advertisers will have a harder time serving up targeted ads because they cannot track user behavior. This concern is well founded. As many as 96 percent of users in the United States are opting out of having their behavior tracked. And as a result, social apps have (so far) lost $10 billion in ad revenue. Facebook itself forecast a pullback in ad revenues for the fourth quarter because of the significant uncertainty it faces in the fourth quarter in light of continued headwinds from Apple’s iOS 14 changes.

If you advertise on Facebook, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What factors might influence your choices going forward?

Contact True Interactive

To succeed in the dynamic world of online advertising, contact True Interactive. We help businesses succeed with relevant and engaging advertising. Read about some of our client work here.

 

Why Google’s Ad Revenues Are Rising

Why Google’s Ad Revenues Are Rising

Google

A year ago, Google was feeling the pain of an economic downturn caused by the pandemic. My what a difference a year makes. On October 26, Google’s parent Alphabet reported that Google had beat earnings expectations across the board for the third quarter. Why is Google growing so well?

The News

Here are the financial highlights from Alphabet’s earnings announcement:

  • Google’s advertising revenue rose 43 percent to $53.13 billion, up from $37.1 billion the same time last year and slightly higher than the prior quarter. YouTube ads rose to $7.21 billion, up from $5.04 billion a year ago.
  • Retail was the largest contributor to year-over-year ad growth. Media and finance spending was also big.

Google, like its Big Tech rivals Amazon and Facebook, is benefitting from the surge in e-commerce that happened during the pandemic. With more consumers spending online, more businesses advertised online. The increase more than offset the slowdown Google suffered in 2020 when its travel and leisure clients scaled back advertising amid widespread travel restrictions. As we look closer at Google’s growth, we see two take-aways:

Privacy Is Google’s Ace in the Hole

Apple has enacted privacy controls that give users the choice of opting out of being tracked by apps on Apple iOS. As a result:

  • Google rival Facebook has experienced a slowdown in revenue in its most recent quarter as Facebook users opt out of having their behavior tracked, which hurts Facebook’s ability to serve up targeted ads for its customers.

Brian Wieser, GroupM’s global president of business intelligence, told The Wall Street Journal, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Whatever data they have [at Google] is better than what most others have.”

And Google’s data is going to look even better once Google successfully phases out third-party cookies on Chrome, which is the most popular browser in the world. Subject to regulatory oversight, Google will phase out cookies in 2023. This means that advertisers will no longer be able to rely on third-party cookies to track user behavior across the web in order to serve up personalized ads. Google will work with advertisers to create alternatives to third-party cookies through its Privacy Sandbox project.

Meanwhile, Google’s own powerful ad platforms, such as YouTube and Google Search, will be exempted from Google’s phasing out of cookies. That’s because those platforms use first-party data, or data collected from user behavior on those sites. They don’t rely on third-party cookies. When the dust settles, Google will emerge even stronger.

Google Is Making a Play for e-Commerce

We reported on our blog that Google is making some changes that will strengthen Google’s position as a challenger to Amazon’s e-commerce business. For instance, Google will make online searching and shopping more visually appealing by emulating the product display features you see on Amazon. For certain items such as apparel, Google will return search results with a page that resembles a visual store, not a list of links and text descriptions. Google will also soon introduce a new way to search visually, with the ability to ask questions about what you see. These changes will build on some moves Google has enacted already to become more influential in e-commerce. As The Wall Street Journal reported:

Much of the company’s growth has come from e-commerce advertisers eager to reach customers whose product searches begin online, as noted earlier. The company joined with Shopify Inc. this year to simplify search listings and ad purchases for 1.7 million merchants. The effort, which aimed to enliven its e-commerce segment, has helped turn retail ads into Google’s largest growth contributor.

Most product searches begin on Amazon, a scenario that is not likely to change soon. But Google still commands a large share of product-related searches. The explosive growth of e-ecommerce during the pandemic has suited the company well – and will continue to do so.

It’s clear that Google’s position among the Big Three online platforms (along with Amazon and Facebook) is as strong as ever. And Google is taking steps to write its own future through stronger consumer privacy measures.

As for what’s next? Look for Google to make more investments in artificial intelligence to fuel the development of more ad products. This commitment reflects a broader push into AI for Alphabet. As Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said in a call with investors, “In 2016, I laid out our vision to become an AI-first company. Five years later, this quarter’s results show how our investments in AI are building more helpful products for people and for our partners in local communities.”

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.