Where Amazon, Google, and Meta Are Headed
Technology earnings week is always watched closely. The rising and falling fortunes of Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft have a direct impact on adjacent industries such as retail, advertising, and marketing. During a topsy turvy year such as 2022, the most recent quarterly earnings announcements of the Big Tech firms were followed especially closely. And here are some of the highlights from the Big Three of online advertising – Amazon, Google, and Meta — with implications for online advertising:
- Amazon beat analysts’ estimates and enjoyed a strong quarter with the exception of its core retail business. The big news was the continued strong growth of Amazon Ads, which is Amazon’s advertising business that has quickly challenged Google and Meta for leadership of the online ad market. Ad revenue climbed 18% in the period for its most recent quarter. All told, Amazon Ads raked in $8.76 billion in the second quarter. Notably, in its earnings announcement, Amazon highlighted the recent launch of Amazon Marketing Stream, which “automatically delivers hourly Sponsored Products campaign metrics to advertisers or agencies through the Amazon Ads API.” This is a sign that Amazon is developing ad tech data and marketing services, which is a direct challenge to Google. What it means: the success of Amazon Ads dovetails with the ascendance of a more privacy-focused era. Apple in particular has initiated privacy controls that make it more difficult for advertisers to target consumers with ads that use third-party data. Amazon Ads is beyond the reach of such privacy controls because Amazon Ads is based on first-party data that Amazon collects from its customers. Amazon is not the only retail business building its own ad network. But it’s the leader. We expect more businesses will choose Amazon Ads as an advertising platform, and we have developed services accordingly.
- Meta suffered its first-ever revenue drop for the quarter. The reasons are complicated. First off, TikTok is threatening the popularity of Facebook and Instagram (both owned by Meta), and Meta’s response to TikTok, Reels, doesn’t generate money as efficiently as Instagram Stories and the main news feed. Meta has also reeled from the impact of Apple’s privacy controls. What it means: Meta is in a time of transition – but never count out Meta. The company is investing heavily into the emerging metaverse, which is dragging its profits down but may boost Meta over the long run. And although Reels are a work in progress, progress is being made. As analysts at JMP wrote, “With Meta making progress with Reels while AI improves recommendations across content and advertising, we expect growth to rebound from current levels while the company is more disciplined in its cost structure.” And, overall, the company’s base of monthly active users continues to increase. The real threat to Meta in the near term: how well the company can rebound from the threat of Apple’s privacy controls. The long-term threat: how well Meta can attract and keep Gen Z users.
- Google is sitting pretty. Alphabet’s search ad sales grew more than 13 percent in Q2 2022 to $40.7 billion, beating analysts’ expectations of $40.2 billion. Search, of course, is Google’s bread-and-butter business, and Google’s investments into its core search ad units are paying off as advertisers lean into performance marketing tactics amid economic uncertainty. But life isn’t all rosy at Google. At YouTube, ad sales rose 0nly 5 percent after jumping 84 percent in the same period a year ago. This reflects the impact of TikTok’s popularity. What it means: Google is going to flourish in 2022 and 2023 especially as advertisers weather economic uncertainty. Google is a safe bet, and Google continues to develop new ad units that enhance its performance marketing capabilities. Watch for Google to continue to push artificial intelligence-related services and tools that automate online advertising — while managing the increasingly thorny challenge of developing alternatives to third-party cookies, which the company had said it would do by 2022 and now is rescheduling for 2024.
What Advertisers Should Do
- Keep a diversified ad portfolio across the Big Three: Amazon, Google, and Meta. If you are satisfied with the results you are seeing, don’t let Meta’s challenges scare you away. But do a gut check with your agency partner on how your ads are performing.
- Work closely with your agency partners to understand the impact of privacy controls, especially from Apple.
- If Gen Z is an important audience, take a closer look at TikTok. TikTok looms large as it challenges YouTube and Meta especially.