Biden‘s Big Swing at Big Tech

The week following the July 4th holiday was short, but it sure didn‘t seem like it.

There were big press events that felt like they came from a pre-pandemic era, as well as a flurry of moves and news coming out of the regulatory realm. Let‘s get into it.

Biden vs. Tech

Following his recent appointment of an FTC commissioner who makes Big Tech CEOs nervous, President Joe Biden Jr. took another big swing at Silicon Valley this week as part of a major executive order aimed at breaking up monopolistic behavior across multiple industries. A big focus of the order is the amassing of consumer data — pretty much the key business model of the duopoly/triopoly.

As CNN explained it, the order is aimed at slowing down “the collection and use of large amounts of consumer data, and the incentive for tech companies with multiple lines of business to cross-promote their own services at the expense of competition.”

One of the ways that big tech has done that, of course, is through acquisitions. From the sound of things, if Facebook tried to buy WhatsApp or Instagram today, it wouldn‘t fly. Same for Google snatching up YouTube.

The thing is, those deals did happen — years and years ago — and the competitive advantages of sharing your data across Instagram and Facebook for ad targeting purposes have long been in place.

Indeed, it‘s not totally clear how many teeth are in the order or what happens next. As The New York Times put it, many of the agencies mentioned in the Friday order, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, are independent, meaning the White House can only encourage them, not direct them, to take specific steps.

What‘s clear is that the climate has changed. One thing worth noting is that Biden and company seem fixated on the FANG companies, even amidst all the IPOs and big funding that have swept adtech of late. Of course, you could argue those firms don‘t represent monopolies per se, but they sure do have a lot of consumer data at their fingertips.

Trading up

Speaking of consumer data, The Trade Desk wants all of it (don‘t tell Joe). Specifically, the juggernaut DSP with the $30+ billion valuation wants brands across the spectrum to port as much first-party data as possible to the company‘s just-unveiled Solimar platform. During a splashy live event in Tribeca that felt like 2019, The Trade Desk preached about championing the open web while touting a platform that is open to all — buyers, vendors, metrics firms and the like, reported AdExchanger.

The not-so-subtle description of the product‘s democratic design was a pretty direct shot at walled gardens like Google. Yet, interestingly, the company‘s ambitions for Solimar seemed to edge into territory that goes beyond that of most DSPs and could bump up against onboarders like LiveRamp as well as DMPs. In other words, The Trade Desk seems to be building a full-stack buying cloud of sorts — that could be characterized as walled-garden-like.

Sue me? Sue you

Another week, another legal action against Google‘s business practices. It‘s getting hard to keep track of who‘s got it in for the search giant, between various state attorney generals and the DOJ and the Belgians and French. This week it was a different set of state attorneys general contending that Google‘s Play store is anticompetitive, reported CNBC:

“The plaintiffs claim that Google has used anticompetitive tactics to extract a 30% commission from consumers, who purchase subscriptions and digital content on their Android phones.”

If this sounds like the same sort of thing Epic Games (makers of Fortnite) and Apple are tussling over, you‘d be right. In this case, the 38 states involved are even alleging that Google tries to pay off competitors like Samsung to use its App Store. Wait till they find out about what Google pays Apple to get its search tech on people‘s iPhones (wait, that‘s the DOJ one).

Meanwhile, speaking of lawsuits, former President Donald Trump is suing Facebook, Google and Twitter, which legal experts have laughed off as “As Stupid as You‘d Think” — a quote that headlines this Vanity Fair piece, which suspects the suit is mostly about fundraising.

Everyone‘s an ad network  

Here‘s one way to raise money — sell a bunch of ads using customer data — everyone‘s doing it. As Axios noted, Instacart is heading toward building a $1 billion dollar ad business, and the company just installed a longtime Facebook executive to help build it. Instacart has loads of company, as firms like DoorDash, Walmart, Kroger and others are pushing into the ad business one way or another. “For companies that sell goods, advertising isn‘t just a financial opportunity, but a chance to make their operations more efficient.” Sounds like these guys must have already plugged into Solimar!

That‘s it for this week!