Google and Facebook finally face challengers

Alan Coleman from Wolfgang casts a cold eye on the digital media landscape of 2017 and looks into his crystal ball towards 2018. Google’s fiercest competitor isn’t Facebook; it’s Amazon.

2017 was very much the year of the digital media duopoly strengthening their grip as almost two-thirds of online ad spend in the US is now split between Google and Facebook.

With shiny new ad platform Snap delivering dire financial results in Q3 prompting a total redesign of the app, and Bing still owning a minor share of search, has anybody emerged as a potential challenger to Google and Facebook in 2018?

I see two potential challengers.

Google’s fiercest competitor isn’t Facebook; it’s Amazon. Amazon could conceivably eclipse Google as the number one destination for retail’s online ad dollars if they get one thing right in 2018. What’s that one thing? Well, Bing created a “migrate my Adwords account to Bing with one click” button recently, and the challenger search engine has said it was the single most effective innovation they have rolled out in memory. If Amazon were to replicate the success of their own “buy now with one click” button for shoppers and roll out a “migrate my Google Shopping campaign to Amazon with one click” button for advertisers they would win a serious chunk of ad spend from the big G in an instant.

The other advertising platform showing huge promise is Pinterest. It fits neatly into an integrated digital marketing strategy in between Facebook and Google. Facebook for more passive ad consumption, Pinterest when somebody is beginning to research an action, Google when they are coming closer to activating that action.

Facebook is brand; Google is demand, Pinterest could become a useful bridge between to the two.

Pinterest offers all the vibrant visual appeal of a social network, with user behaviour much more akin to search. With 200 million users they can’t yet rival Google or Facebook for reach, but smart marketers will be maximising their potential on Pinterest in 2018.

“The people in charge of the tech platforms have not been taking their responsibilities to society seriously.”

The advertising industry’s “spoofing” issue pre-dates the Internet

Issues in digital marketing such as ad fraud, spoofing and mistaken metrics have all hit the headlines in 2017. However, despite the prominent headlines and keynotes from traditional advertisers lost in the new digital world, these protestations didn’t damage digital ad spend.

Online ad spend is expected to grow 13% in 2018, with offline ad spend to remain flat. This means brands are more than happy with their online performance. How can this be despite the revelations of murky practices in online advertising?
Simple. It’s because the advertising industry has been spoofing the general public and advertising businesses for decades. Adland’s tenuous relationship with the truth predates the world wide web by quite some stretch.

In 2013, I wrote a blog post titled “Display ads are a crock of shit”. It was a shout out about how the smoke and mirrors of traditional advertising were trying to tiptoe their way online to the cost of businesses and the benefit of agencies and media. One of the points I made was in the world of interactive media; advertisers are daft to be still paying for old school “ad impressions”.

Four years on from this post and the solution to smoke and mirrors of online ad fraud remains the same.


It’s interactive media people. Buy interactions. Bots won’t buy anything. Spoofers won’t inquire. Get a good performance agency who reports on clicks, conversions, ROI and ROAS, and you will massively reduce your exposure to ad fraud.
Oh and display, programmatic, real-time bidding, whatever sparkly outfit banner ads are being dressed up as in 2018, they are still a crock of gold for agencies a crock of shit for advertisers.

“When the #metoo social media campaign revealed to me the extent of sexual harassment and worse suffered by my female friends and family my worldview shifted.”

#metoo and the democratisation of media

In 2017 we learnt of fake news and echo chambers and their impact on voting for Trump, Brexit and beyond. In 2017 we witnessed the internet giants abdicate the responsibility that comes with being a media company and not have the integrity to send their leaders to the congressional hearing on their failings when massive issues ensued. Pretty low down irresponsible behaviour. However, there was user-driven society enhancing moments on social media in 2017.
The #meetoo campaign was one such moment.

metoo campaign

When traditional media reported that some movie mogul was a sexual predator I barely raised an eyebrow. But when the #metoo social media campaign revealed to me the extent of sexual harassment and worse suffered by my female friends and family my worldview shifted. The realisation that half the adults I know and love can feel fear in the middle of the day in public spaces was deeply troubling for me. It also gave me an understanding of my male privilege. I can walk down any street or enter any car park at any time and always feel safe. The impacts of this #meetoo campaign have been far-reaching. Sexual predators like Weinstein and Spacey who had been hiding in plain view their entire lives are now being revealed. Calls have flooded into services for the abused and reporting of crimes has increased significantly internationally as a result of this campaign. This means people who have been living with awful secrets are now finding a way to unburden themselves, and justice is coming to those who’ve escaped it for far too long. The culture of secrecy that protected sleazebags for decades is being eroded in days by movements of mass sharing. 12 million people posted #metoo on Facebook in first 24 hours of the campaign.

So although the people in charge of the tech platforms have not been taking their responsibilities to society seriously and that neglect has damaged global democracy, their platforms have democratised media, media control has migrated from the powerful few to the populace. Our collective consciousness can now manifest on social media to call out wrongs, recalibrate what’s acceptable and enhance safety in society. #metoo is a prime example of this phenomenon.

Alan Coleman is the CEO of Wolfgang Digital. 



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