‘More petty fights between tech titans’: Confessions of a media buyer on Apple vs. Facebook, Google lawsuits

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For media buyers, especially those focused on performance marketing, the majority of their budget is still spent on Facebook and Google. Both tech companies, though, face new scrutiny from lawmakers that could affect their ad offerings. Google has been accused by 10 states of creating a monopoly in the online ads business; meanwhile, Facebook is being sued by 48 states and the FTC for anti-trust. At the same time, Facebook is waging a public fight with Apple — over an upcoming iOS update that would allow people to opt out of being tracked across apps — with a print ad campaign that claims the change will hurt small businesses.

The fight with Apple as well as the lawsuits Google and Facebook are facing could affect the data media buyers have access to as well as what buyers are thinking about the platforms. For the latest edition of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor, we spoke with a performance marketing media buyer about the suits as well as the Facebook and Apple fight.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Are you talking to clients about the Google and Facebook lawsuits? 

A majority of my clients don’t pay close enough attention to the news to know about the suits. It’s the holiday season and they’re focused on getting more sales — a lot of our clients are founders and business owners who have businesses to run. The Google suit is interesting. Whether it’s Google versus the states or the EU or anyone trying to sue Amazon or Facebook. It’s a great idea in theory but what is it in practicality? People who make those laws don’t even truly understand how the internet works. I’m worried people who make rules or laws that get passed sound good on a surface level but don’t understand the effects.

What about the Apple and Facebook brouhaha?

I’ve emailed clients to make sure their domains are verified for Facebook. With the latest iOS 14 update from Apple, things are only going to get worse next year [when it comes to tracking]. It’s going to happen so we might as well [be prepared] for the update. We haven’t had a talk about it because, from our perspective, clients are busy with something else. It does seem like [news of this update and the potential effects] is coming out this time of year because they know people can’t really pay attention to it with everything else going on.

It sounds like you’re not worried about these changes.

Being in the industry for as long as I have been, everyone talks about these updates as new, but we’ve been talking about updates for years now. Big tech companies have always had these petty little fights where they push or pull other platforms because they want to create a walled garden. For [Facebook] now to say they want to help small businesses is bullshit. They only care about their shareholders and making them rich. They don’t care about me, you or any small business. They only care to the point that they can get a buck out of you. After that you’re just a rounding error on their balance sheet. What we all want to figure out is to what degree will there actually be changes. Will it be small? Big?

As for the Google suits, I imagine they’ll take years. It’s not going to be resolved immediately. So let’s call it a 2022 or 2023 issue. Whatever the decision is will be litigated because they’re going to fight it. It’s Google. They’ve got billions to contest it. So our focus should be more on what is Apple going to do with this update and how will that affect Facebook, Snap and all these other platforms. It’s not just going to affect Facebook — it’s going to affect any platform that has someone go from an Apple product to a platform to a website.

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Do all of these platform changes and privacy issues keep you up at night? Seem like it’s been a rough year for buyers.

It’s always a hard time to be a media buyer. We have a thankless job that no one understands and they don’t think they should pay us very well for. Has it been more challenging the last four to six years? 100% because of more changes on ad platforms, more petty fights between tech titans and no one wants to get along. Does it keep me up at night? No. I can’t control what Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook do. I can only control what I can do, shield clients and prepare them when I have to. You can’t control the states suing Google or the EU suing Facebook. We just have to see the news as it unfolds and react, which is very much 2020. No one knows what’s going to happen. It’s all conjecture and hot takes.

What do you wish you could say to execs at these tech companies about these changes and how it affects your job?

As for the Googles, Facebooks, Amazons of the world, if they truly care about small businesses they need to start to work together so we can share data across platforms, make it easier to connect things and not only [say they are going to help small businesses] when their bottom line is hurting. If they only do it when their bottom line is hurting then it’s clear they don’t care about small businesses they only care about their share holders. That’s fine. That’s what their fiduciary duty is. But don’t slap me in the face and tell me you didn’t slap me in the face.

The petty fighting [between the tech giants] is like we’re back in high school and I have no time for that. Don’t say you’re going to help small businesses when you got rid of organic reach on Facebook and then put an article in The New York Times saying you’re helping small businesses. You’re the Walmart of digital marketing. You aren’t saving small businesses today, tomorrow or any day.

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