Like Godzilla and Mothra stomping through Tokyo, Facebook and Google are the dominant giants tearing through the advertising landscape. “The Duopoly” is now a standard industry term.
In 2017, they again increased their haul of U.S. digital advertising, dwarfing every other player with a combined share eMarketer puts at 63%. Competitors like Microsoft, Oath, Amazon, Snapchat, and Twitter are left to fight over the remainder, while more traditional publishers not in the top 10 battle over an even smaller slice of the advertising pie.
Advertising holding companies are also becoming beholden to the duo, spending more with them each year – even as they complain about the “walled-garden” practices of measuring audience and advertising in opaque and inconsistent ways.
So, is it “game over?” Should those of us who aren’t Facebook or Google just accept our fates, submit to our (benevolent?) overlords, and enjoy the bounties of information, entertainment, games, and interaction they provide?
Agencies, marketers and publishers certainly haven’t succumbed – yet – and are at least trying to make chinks in the behemoths’ armor.
Marketers who spend billions with the duopoly pushed Facebook to ‘fess up more completely, after it admitted mistakes in the counting of video views, and then urged Google to be more transparent as well. Both giants then agreed to audits by the Media Ratings Council, a key industry body.
Marketers’ media-buying agencies withheld hundreds of millions of ad dollars from Google’s YouTube after it ran brands’ ads on offensive videos. YouTube then modified its content-monitoring practices.
Powerful advertising holding companies like WPP and Publicis, and platforms like The Trade Desk, have built and bought technologies to let them track users across the walled gardens. Amazon, a distant fifth in ad sales, has gained hundreds of millions in new advertising commitments amid hopes it may be able to balance out the duopoly’s dominance.
Don’t Forget Publishers
Major publishers have offered themselves up as a verified, fraud-free, and safe alternative through the TrustX ad exchange, which increased revenues at least elevenfold in less than a year of existence. Publishers have also capitalized on the heightened desire for reliable reporting to gain subscribers and become less reliant on advertising for revenue.
Unsurprisingly, Google and Facebook are trying to woo publishers. Google is adjusting its mobile AMP standard to show publishers’ URLs rather than Google’s. And after some publishers left its Instant Articles, Facebook added functionality for them to sign up subscribers through the application.
To be fair, the duopoly is far from teetering. Google and Facebook both raked in record profits according to their most recent earnings reports. Still, publishers and advertisers have shown a willingness to try to gain back some ground and find new ways to stomp around at least a bit on their own.