Google, Facebook and Amazon – how to challenge the heavy-weights in digital advertising?

In February 2019, a marketing analytics company WARC released their Global Ad Trends report pointing out a significant domination of Google and Facebook in the industry. The research predicts that Google and Facebook’s combined share of internet ad spend in 2019 will reach 61.4% of the global online ad market. While those two are steadily growing (in 2018, their share stood at 56.4%), another behemoth equipped with its search ad weapon decided to give it a shot and entered the digital advertising business.

There’s a new warrior in the jungle

Google and Facebook are not the only emperors. It turns out that about 54% (2018) of product searches begin on Amazon, not Google, up from 46% in 2015, says Jumpshot’s The Competitive State of eCommerce Marketplaces reportMoreover, almost 90% of all product views on Amazon result from Amazon’s product search and not merchandising, ads, or product aggregators. Consequently, it becomes clearly apparent for advertisers to move their budgets from Google’s search ad tools to Amazon – especially when they sell products in categories such as: Musical Instruments & Karaoke, Automotive and Health (as indicated by Jumpshot in Retail Winners, Losers and Amazon Jumpshot eCommerce Data Report). WPP, the world’s largest ad buyer, has already noticed it and spent about $300 million on behalf of its clients on Amazon search ads in 2018. 75% of that money came from Google search budgets, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Does it mean that in order to elbow your way through the market, you need to be one of the Big Four technology giants? No, but you should think and innovate just like they do.

United we stand, divided we fall

As for people and companies, there’s nothing more engaging for opposite sides of the war as a common enemy to unite against. If one is not able to compete with a large base of users, highly targeted data offering and custom-made technologies, then it’s time to find a few partners in crime. A combined advertising space and user data followed by a desire to create a competitive offer and to generate the highest ad quality for advertisers is the right path for publishers who dream of growing their revenues and changing the status quo. By linking users’ IDs across separated platforms and providing aggregated data on users, publishers may create an attractive alternative to Facebook advertising tools. This year, Germany’s biggest publishing groups decided to collaborate in order to fight Google, Facebook and Amazon and to get their ‘fair share’ of client’s budgets. Should we grab some popcorn and watch the empire burn?

Dig a little deeper

An undeniable competitive advantage of Google, Facebook and Amazon is a vast reach and huge amount of data on consumers. For advertisers and agencies these platforms became convenient tools providing them with an access to large, multimillion audiences. But a promise of an easy scale could have been a bit too dazzling. Possibilities of those tools are limited and they are not the only available tools of digital advertising. Brands that ignore (or allow their agencies to ignore) the rest of the adtech possibilities will soon or later realize their budgets were not distributed efficiently.

An opportunity for smaller publishers is to seek a niche and create a base of distinctive, verified audiences that Google, Facebook and Amazon are not able to target. E.g., apps such as Waze, Yelp or Foursquare collect data on user’s location and travelling preferences. By doing this, they offer a way more precise placement and less usual targeting options for advertisers who are creative enough to think outside the box and not limit themselves to Google or Facebook advertising platforms.

One script to rule them all

Mainstream solutions offered by ad tech giants raise concerns about campaign efficiency. For publishers aiming to grow their revenue and see how their space is being sold to advertisers, it’s not completely clear if they have made a really good deal. Or, actually – the best possible, because that’s what counts. It’s not a secret that big digital advertising companies always tend to favor their own tools and combine them into the separate, self-sustaining ecosystems. Which is obvious, natural and convenient, but it also means that other players wouldn’t be invited to the game happening on publisher’s inventory.

How can publishers be sure they make the highest possible revenues? An answer to this is header bidding, a programmatic technique that enables publishers to offer their inventory to multiple ad exchanges and collect multiple bids from various demand sources. It is based on a JavaScript code inserted to the <head> of the website. Header bidding makes it possible to see the exact monetary bids placed by programmatic demand sources. All platforms are gathered and allowed to set their bids on an equal basis. Why? When using the “giant” ad platforms, the non-giant, sometimes more efficient sources may miss out on purchasing the publisher’s inventory – even though they could have offered a higher bid. Header bidding gives publishers a chance to sell ads to other, alternative sources and choose the highest bid. Everything is clear, compliant with the rules of the free market and democratic. Seems legit, right? Moreover, prebid.js library (a header bidding wrapper) is an open source solution, which means there’s no big greedy corporation behind it. Read our previous article to find out more about prebid.js: Header bidding – are proprietary wrappers better than comprehensive yield management solutions?

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