Will taming Google and Facebook change the Ad landscape?

In this exclusive MartechAsia, Bench Media CEO, Ori Gold, explains why APAC governments and regulators have not challenged Google’s ad dominance and how the ad landscape will change should giants like Google and Facebook be tamed.

The news of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s calls to curb Google’s use of internet data to sell targeted ads and the US Justice department’s imminent anti-monopoly lawsuit against Google have driven marketers in a frenzy.

MartechAsia caught up with programmatic solutions company Bench Media’s CEO, Ori Gold on Australia’s challenge of Google’s ad dominance. In this interview, Ori shares his insights on how Google’s ad dominance has affected ad tech players and consumers in Australia, US and Asia and why regulators are beginning to consider laws to limit ad dominance by large players like Google and Facebook.

Google dominates Adtech. Now that Australia has challenged Google’s ad dominance, how do you think it will affect Google’s business?

Bench Media, CEO, Ori Gold

Google has pioneered the ad tech and digital advertising space. Yet their dominance became an area for concern around data privacy for consumers. I am proud of the Australian government for taking the necessary steps towards protecting consumers and businesses.

Google was highlighted mainly due to the increasing regulatory pressure both in Australia and overseas. The company has already made deals with 50 publishers in Australia, and over 500 in the world currently as part of its News Showcase. Google has been signing deals with Seven West Media, Nine, News Corp and in the last few months also with ABC, SBS, The Guardian and other smaller players including Junkee Media. This is a direct effect of the Australian bargaining code and the five-year Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) watchdog inquiry into the digital platforms.

The move by Australia is a great start and will allow brands and agencies to examine their ad and marketing channels and platform in a more holistic way. The last thing that a CMO or an agency wants is to put all their eggs in the Google (and Facebook) basket as such a move would be against their strategic interest.

Regulators in Europe and US’s Justice department have also challenged Google’s monopoly on ads. Yet, we haven’t heard much from governments or regulators in APAC, esp. South and Southeast Asia on cracking the whip on Google. Why?

The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) has become increasingly wary of US tech giants, after the recent antitrust case brought against Google by the US Department of Justice. The South Korean government has also taken steps to make online platform businesses more transparent and fair with the inquiry by its Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC). In a landmark case, South Korea’s anti-trust regulator fined Google a record US$177m over its unfair business practices in the country. Thus, I do believe that for these two huge markets, its governments are already following similar policies.

The Southeast Asian markets are much smaller and therefore have separate approaches instead of a united front. This means that they do not have the same bargaining power as the bigger markets – US, EU, Japan and even South Korea and Australia. Thus, it is unlikely that we’ll see big moves from the Southeast Asian governments in the next two years. It is more likely that after the larger markets have paved the way for new standards in anti-competition and consumer privacy, the smaller ASEAN markets will similarly adopt some of these standards.

If Google is tamed, how do you think the ad landscape will change? Will it lead to a level playing field?

Though Google has completely disrupted the ad and digital landscape, over the last few years their dominance has had an effect on the pace of innovation and competition for other players in the industry. I expect this to change in the next few years as we’ll see lots of innovation including new areas such as CTV, DOOH and OTT, local media publishers fueling their own first-party data, and the rise of digital and programmatic audio.

How should marketers prepare for the future of ads?

Digital transformation has been a major catalyst for the rapid change in advertising, and we’ve seen a few significant changes. One upcoming change is that companies will begin to incorporate programmatic advertising as part of their growth and marketing strategy.

To make this happen, brands will need better tools and connectivity. When data is moving in real-time to stakeholders, platforms will need to adapt and offer seamless campaign management in order to capitalise on the real-time movement of data to consumers.

The rise in digital consumption is strong. With a strong digital presence, people are also consuming products and services digitally, leading to the booming rise of the e-commerce industry in Asia. As the e-commerce industry grows, so will the need for programmatic advertising, which is already very well established in Asia and will continue to grow rapidly in response to this need.

As such, organisations should begin to assess their marketing and advertising strategies that they currently have in place and ensure they have the right digital tools and infrastructure enabling them to respond to these trends and to take advantage of the various digital and ad technologies available.

Facebook has a similar monopoly problem on its platform. Do you think Facebook too will be made accountable for this?

Like Google, Facebook will face similar pressures both from a data and consumer privacy point of view as well as within the anti-competition perspective. We are already seeing this in countries like Australia, the US and Europe. Unlike Google, Facebook also has to contend with pressures arising from issues with Apple and other tech giants and the company is much less established as compared to Google in countering these pressures.

Advertisers should definitely retain Facebook as part of their digital strategy, but they will need to be very conscious so as not to rely on the platform as their main digital and growth driver.