Anyone within a country mile of digital ad buying is well aware that Google and Facebook wield formidable influence over the industry. But even those in the business are sometimes surprised by the extent of their dominance. According to The State of U.S. Advertising, 2017-2018 (Gartner subscription required), in 2018 Google and Facebook together will take in 72% of digital ad revenue earned by all digital publishers, ad networks and ad tech vendors in the U.S.
The supply-side of TV ad inventory isn’t quite as consolidated, but is headed in the same direction. Last week’s AT&T/Time Warner deal close marks one milestone. Next up for assimilation: a large piece of the Fox empire including its cable networks and Hulu stake. Both Comcast and Disney are bidding. Other TV industry deals are likely to follow.
For advertisers, media consolidation is a double-edged sword. On one hand, working with fewer, larger advertising outlets streamlines the process of getting your message in front of a critical mass of your target audience. On the other hand, fragmentation means competition, which typically entails higher quality at lower price.
Two pieces of advice to make the most out of today’s consolidating media landscape:
- Reward media partners willing to support third-party measurement. Google and Facebook build the walls up high, offering only summary campaign performance reporting. In contrast, other digital ad inventory suppliers are much more accommodating. In the world of television, granular ad impression data is readily available, for addressable buys and national ad campaigns. Ad sellers that share back the details of exactly who you reached, how often, and when are adding substantial value. Make arrangements to have the data matched to your identifiers, and shipped to your designated measurement partner. The use of a third-party blind match processor may be necessary to satisfy privacy requirements.
- Leverage your own data for targeting. When dealing with walled gardens, marketers often won’t have the option to receive detailed impression data for measurement. But every ad platform, walls or not, will accept audience target lists that you provide (Gartner subscribers see Control Your Marketing Data — or Google, Facebook and Amazon Will). Bringing your own data (BYOD) is helpful for several reasons. First, it allows you to hold out your own control groups. Second, it reinforces with ad sellers that they are there to furnish inventory, not to tell you who to target. After all, no cataloger ever asked the the post office who they should mail. Even if you are using third party data to define your segments, the best approach is to pull this data into your shop by licensing it directly, then passing it through to ad platforms as first party data.
It’s worth noting that consolidation is also happening at the identity layer. A few providers have huge deterministic device graphs built atop consumer businesses like mobile data, retail and consumer electronics. AT&T and Verizon are two obvious examples, Amazon and Vizio also fall into this category. These giants are now aggressively leveraging their identity assets to power ad targeting and measurement. As long the regulatory and privacy environments permit, expect more activity here.