Masters of the Entire Universe

It‘s been a wild week of eye-popping earnings announcements from nearly all of Silicon Valley‘s biggest companies — which increasingly serves as a bellwether for the ad industry (and maybe the US economy).

Meanwhile, tons of questions still remain about how these giants‘ decisions on consumer data will affect the rest of us. Let‘s get into it.

Tech Titans, Go!

There is an awful lot of worry in the ad industry over what will happen to the competitive landscape once cookies, mobile identifiers and other forms of targeting go by the wayside or get regulated into obsolescence.

That worry is often translated into questions such as: Just how much power and market share does Big Tech stand to gain?

After this week, it might be worth asking: How exactly could these companies dominate any more than they do now?

Following the absolutely gangbusters earnings performance delivered by Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft this past week, waiting for a cookiepocolypse to shake up the market almost seems quaint, given that the avalanche already happened and the walled gardens are cleaning up.

The prolonged stay-at-home period triggered by the pandemic has been fantastic for business. Just look at Google-parent Alphabet‘s growth: Revenue surged 62 percent year over year to $61.9 billion, reported The Information (it‘s not like this was from a small base). YouTube alone pulled in $7 billion.

Someone on Twitter cracked, “So much for the impact of iOS 14.”

Of course, if anyone was going to take a hit from Apple‘s recently enacted ad tracking crackdown, it was Facebook, which had telegraphed its worries to investors. It hasn‘t happened yet, though Facebook says watch out for Q3.

That‘s actually the sentiment across much of the ad world — as Business Insider‘s Lara O’Reilly put it in her weekly newsletter: “Q3 will be a big test for the digital ad duopoly.”

Why? Well, the full impact of Apple‘s IDFA changes should really hit over the next few months. Plus, as Axios points out, these huge revenue spikes recorded by the tech giants were compared to Q2 of 2020, i.e., the Quarter When Covid Hit.

Still, the numbers are nothing if not impressive. How big was last week for Big Tech?

Amazon disappointed investors overall yet still pulled in an amazing $8 billion on ads alone, a spike of 87 percent year over year. Even Linkedin posted a 97 percent growth in ad spending, helping fuel Microsoft‘s best quarter since 2008.

Google‘s Timeline Irks Adtech

When Google announced it was slowing down plans to eliminate cookies by a couple of years, there was some vocal grumbling in the form of “let‘s rip the band-aid off already” — but sighs of relief were far more common. More time to prepare has generally been thought to be good for the industry.

But what if — during that two-year grace period — your company is actually cut off from doing business or prohibited from building the cookie alternatives it needs for the future? And meanwhile, Google uses these two years to strengthen its cookie replacement programs (Sandbox, FLoC, FLEDGE) so significantly that when cookies eventually die, Google‘s alternatives will be best set up for success.

These are the allegations some adtech companies are lobbing now that Google has provided more details on its Privacy Sandbox timeline, according to Ad Age.

Google rivals fear that Google‘s products will be given the priority and the time needed to get them working at a high level, making it easier for publishers and brands to just stay in their Sandbox rather than try any alternatives. “You will have a world driven by Privacy Sandbox initiatives,” said Mathieu Roche, co-founder and CEO of ID5, an advertising technology and identity firm, “and you will have the rest of the world.”

If you take all this at face value, it sounds like exactly the kind of competitive choking behavior regulators are looking out for from Google, if they‘d even understand the nuances here.

Yet, of course, Google maintains it‘s more complicated and far more “open web” than is being described by rivals. It will be interesting to see what happens when the folks behind Unified ID weigh in.

Snap Map

Snap‘s mapping tool has quietly become a massively impressive product — likened by some as a potential future “metaverse” where people could perform all sorts of digital functions (like Fortnite or Facebook).

And now, Snap wants to dial up benefits of its location-sharing functionality, allowing people to log places they‘ve checked into or intend to visit, as well as curate recommendations based on where people are, where they‘ve been and what other users and friends have recommended — anonymously of course, according to

It all sounds very cool. Of course, location-based tracking and advertising have proclaimed great promise only to come under serious scrutiny in recent years. Let‘s assume that Snapchat‘s location data is well protected — it‘s still data tied to real people in real locations. Given the current climate, this seems an area where the once-again hot network will need to be extra careful.

Ok, that‘s more than enough news for this week. See you next time!