So, at last the UK Government is going to investigate the digital advertising sector, with Chancellor Philip Hammond announcing this week that the Competition & Markets Authority will launch a market review. Frankly, the lack of competition to Google and Facebook’s dominance has stifled our industry the world over.
It’s unfortunate that because they control the environments where many consumers spend their time online, over 60% of UK advertising budgets will be spent with them this year, according to e-Marketer.
Without challengers being able to rise to prominence, there’s less incentive for the duopoly to evolve their advertising and marketing technologies. Unfortunately for advertisers, this means that outdated metrics such as ‘clicks’ or ‘likes’ have stuck around long past their sell-by date, potentially because by limiting which metrics they give advertisers, their services can seem more impactful.
As ‘walled gardens’ – environments where third-party analytics services have no access – Facebook and Google have been able to mark their own homework for too long. They sell their services, then report on the success of those services, without allowing any sort of third-party audit.
Because they control both the ad server and – most commonly – the environment where the advert is served, they’re able to limit access more so than other advertising technology companies.
Facebook, in particular, has been caught out misreporting metrics in the past, and yet clients are still forced to trust it for insight into how the money they have spent with the social media giant has performed.
In fact, given the recent news about Facebook limiting their advertisers’ ability to set their own ad-set level budgets, the balance of control between advertiser and Facebook seems to be swinging back to Facebook.
Right now, in my opinion, authoritative intervention is sorely needed. It’s a global issue, but without a global authority to oversee, individual countries need to step up.
Elliott Clayton is senior vice-president of media at Conversant UK