I recently had the pleasure of writing an article for AdAge on the digital duopoly we see in Digital Marketing. In case you didn’t see it, here it is:
Adapting to Digital Duopoly: Customization Counts
This is the era of duopoly in digital advertising, a time when Facebook and Google control the lion’s share of the overall digital U.S. ad spend (54%), as well as the mobile ad spend (67%). The situation is even more stark when you look at incremental growth numbers: Facebook and Google together account for 98% of new digital ad dollars spent last year. Smaller players have to fight over a still significant, but ever-shrinking, share of the pie, even as other behemoths — most notably, Amazon and Verizon — emerge to grab at the same piece. These large players, each with proprietary tech and money to spend, seem destined to conquer every last inch of the digital advertising landscape.
They won’t. Digital advertising is not, as the territorial metaphors would suggest, a two-dimensional space that can be conquered and divided among large players like borders on a map. The needs of marketers are multidimensional, varied and vertical-specific. They require custom solutions as singular as the products, regions and audiences themselves. This is what the market needs but the duopoly fails to deliver; this is where independent ad tech players should concentrate their efforts.
Industry observers have predicted various unsavory fates for the smaller ad tech companies: that they will face increasing pressure to consolidate, or get squeezed out entirely. They are asked to provide boutique-level quality in their services, while reducing margins and staying lean. (Like ad tech companies, publishers and agencies face this unappetizing menu of options.)
For companies that want to avoid becoming isolated or getting squeezed out of the market, that want to thrive against the big boys without having a seat at the big-boy table, there is another way. It doesn’t involve building scale and reach to compete with Facebook and Google, whose “walled gardens” are virtually impenetrable. It involves rigorous and unrelenting focus on developing top-notch customization capabilities for targeted verticals, and ensuring that those functions are interoperable across platforms, including within those walled gardens.