Losing The Surveillance War; Meta And BuzzFeed, Together Again

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Battle Lines Drawn

The online advertising industry is struggling with its own brand perception.

Nomenclature like “fingerprinting” doesn’t help, and over the past few years programmatic has been caught up in a vortex of negative opinions. Terms such as “surveillance capitalism” and even “spyware” have become commonplace with lawmakers, academics and regulators.

This overwrought terminology often glosses over the nuance of how ad tech actually works, and companies that position themselves as the saviors of privacy sometimes live in glass houses. (Apple, we’re looking at you.)

Tired of being attacked, the ad industry is getting more vocal in support of itself. Earlier this week, IAB CEO David Cohen told the audience at the trade org’s Annual Leadership Meeting that “Extremists are winning the battle for hearts and minds in Washington, DC, and beyond. We cannot let that happen.” Cohen went on to name-check several lawmakers in his fiery address, including senators Amy Klobuchar and Ted Cruz.

Cruz’s camp clapped back. “The only ‘extremist’ here is the lobbyist who thinks he has a God-given right to personally profit from spying on regular Americans,” Melissa Braid, a spokesperson for Sen. Cruz and the Senate Commerce Committee, told Politico.

The IAB has taken a boxer’s stance, but does the industry have a fighting chance to change anyone’s mind about the value of online advertising?

As Facebook Goes, So Does BuzzFeed

Two titans of the post-millennium internet, Facebook and BuzzFeed, are partnering (again), this time in an attempt to claw back relevance.

Meta will pay BuzzFeed roughly $10 million over the course of a year to produce content for Facebook and its TikTok clone, Instagram Reels, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The deal comes on the heels of Meta and BuzzFeed both deprioritizing news content. Meta said it would stop paying news publishers to create content for the platform with plans to invest in creator revenue tools instead, while BuzzFeed reduced its newsroom in favor of non-news content creation.

This isn’t the first time BuzzFeed has pivoted to match Facebook. During its heyday, BuzzFeed surfed waves of traffic from viral listicles and quizzes on Facebook. The two were also close partners during Facebook’s doomed pivot to video in 2016.

In related news, the WSJ reports that BuzzFeed will work with ChatGPT creator OpenAI to “enhance” its signature quizzes. Take it as a sign of how BuzzFeed investments are changing as its newsroom’s importance shrinks. BuzzFeed’s stock more than doubled after the OpenAI news.

Keep It Clean

Clean rooms are one of the hottest independent tech vendor categories right now – which means the whole cottage industry is at near risk of being squashed by Silicon Valley giants.

Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle all rolled out CDPs after that category took off, and now the big cloud platforms – Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure – are attempting the same with clean rooms. 

Google and Amazon are both investing big into clean rooms, albeit each with a different approach. Amazon is taking a more open route, whereas Google is playing its cards close to the vest (as usual).

And now Microsoft, which had been quiet on the clean room front, is preparing to enter the ring, The Information reports. A new product codenamed Project Oakes would allow multiple Azure customers to merge and analyze data sets without exposing underlying user data. 

This type of data analysis will soon be table stakes for cloud infrastructure providers. Snowflake already fills a huge vacuum by offering an independent and more integration-friendly version of the tech.

What will be interesting to see is if and when Microsoft Advertising becomes a strategic (read: exclusive) plug-in for Azure so audiences created using the Project Oakes service might actually be targetable by Microsoft’s DSP.

But Wait, There’s More!

Digital media and online advertising will lose the battle of public perception to Apple. [The Rebooting]

Amazon’s trickle-down monopoly. [Data & Society]

OpenWeb is acquiring publisher-tech firm Jeeng for $100 million. [Insider]

Jeff Green, CEO of The Trade Desk, responds to the DOJ’s antitrust suit against Google. [The Current]

PureCars launches an exclusive Spotify advertising program for auto dealers. [release]

A startup called Clouty seeks to launch futures linked to individual genres, artists and songs so streaming companies and music rights owners can manage risk. [FT]

You’re Hired!

IDG-owned Foundry promotes Danny Phillips to COO. [release]

Michael Soileau joins customer experience consultancy O3 as CEO. [release]