Not So Lazy (Last) Days of Summer

Looks like none of the feds took an August vacation.

More heat on Google, more regulation headaches from overseas and lots of Apple data rules fallout. Plus, Nielsen takes it in the chin. So much for a quiet end to the summer of 2021. Let’s get into it.

Flock of Lawsuits

The Department of Justice is planning to file a second antitrust lawsuit against Google, and this one is focused on digital advertising, reported Bloomberg. And that is about all we know.

You may recall that the DOJ had previously gone after Google regarding its search business, questioning whether the company favors its own products in results (something EU regulators have also hit Google over). This new lawsuit — which Bloomberg says may land by the end of this year, focuses on Google’s adtech footprint — and whether that stifles competition.

Beeswax founder Ari Paparo asked on Twitter, “Will it be buy-side or sell-side?” And it’s a good question. Adtech is so inherently complicated — and seemingly so competitive — that it would appear hard to make a case that any one firm rules. Or not. Google, along with Facebook, clearly commands an outsized share of ad revenue. But on the buy-side of ad tech, there are lots of other DSPs (though for YouTube ads, they make you use their product). Ad serving is something that Google owns, but does that really matter to the feds?

Meanwhile, on the sales side, there are multiple DSPs and exchanges — though Google’s ADEx is certainly massive.

Ultimately, our guess is the case will rest not on Google’s actual tech or even its market share but the way that its consumer ID data allows it to dominate/dictate adtech markets and use its own network effect to its advantage (not unlike the FTC argument against Facebook). Regardless, get your popcorn (or cookies) ready.

Overpromise and Underdeliver

Facebook had yet another advertising data hiccup, although in this case, it doesn’t seem to be entirely the company’s fault. Because of a delayed Apple notification, Facebook has been undercounting conversions for some brands, reported Ad Age. This doesn’t help Facebook’s black-box rep since the social networking giant has disclosed significant reporting errors well after the fact more than a few times over the past few years. But in this case, the mistake seems to be driven by Apple’s overall crackdown on consumer tracking in its app ecosystem.

According to Ad Age, the more brands see Facebook as being less reliable for driving app installs, leads or sales on Apple devices, the higher the likelihood they will move their dollars elsewhere. Perhaps, but where? Which other platform has the same narrow targeting, analytics and scale available? There’s a reason none of these other metrics mistakes seem to have made a dent.

Epic Battle

Speaking of Apple and data — the hardware titan is pulling back just a bit on the restrictions it places on app developers who want to sell subscriptions, virtual goods and the like. After enduring a public court battle with Epic Games (the makers of Fortnite) over the hefty cut it takes from app makers, Apple is giving some ground — gradually — by letting companies like Netflix direct users to links outside of their iOS apps to sign for subscriptions and the like.

However, there is a lot of gray area, and not everyone is happy, reported CNBC: “The rule does not apply to all transactions through the App Store. Game-oriented in-app purchases will still need to use Apple’s payment system. But so-called “reader apps” that link to content subscriptions can now offer a service without offering a subscription handled through Apple.”

So who’s a “reader app,” and who isn’t? Apparently, Spotify and Roblox don’t qualify, just to name two. Expect more skirmishes on this front, as controlling the user experience, the customer relationship, the data — and of course the revenue companies make on mobile — is the core to these companies’ businesses.

Bottom of the Ratings

For a long time in the digital ad industry, it’s been easy to poke fun at Nielsen ratings (You call that data? Projections from a few thousand households?) while at the same time being envious of the TV market’s simplicity. Well, it seems that CTV, device fragmentation and a variety of other sources have served to make TV viewing far more complex to track — maybe too complex.

Nielsen has been under fire for a while, and now it’s lost its accreditation from the Media Rating Council, reported Variety. Which begs the question — just how badly has Nielsen handled the digital era that it can’t keep regulators — to whom it pays a ton for audits — happy?

Will this actually impact the upfront or advertisers’ budget allocations? That’s more likely a long-term question. But it sure seems to open up the measurement market for newer, smarter, more data-driven metrics contenders. Business Insider has a solid list of would-be Nielsen replacements.

GDPR, CCPA, IDFA — Meet PIPL

Just when complying with regulations couldn’t seem to get any more complicated for digital advertisers, here comes China’s Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL). AdExchanger has a good explanation of the ruling that goes into effect on Nov 1.

The good news is that it’s a lot like GDPR, so web publishers and brands that have already taken steps to comply with that EU law should be in solid shape. However, PIPL requires any non-Chinese company that processes data of Chinese citizens to designate an in-country representative. Plus, some of the rules on obtaining user consent appear even more restrictive. Many companies elect not to operate in China for a wide range of reasons. The uncertainty surrounding PIPL may have just given them another excuse.

Ok, that’s enough — take a deep breath, enjoy some sun and see you after the long weekend!

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