Big Tech has amassed tremendous influence over the digital ad market

Big Tech is responsible for some of the most popular online destinations among consumers. Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, and Alphabet-owned Google will attract almost two-thirds of US digital ad dollars in 2024, according to our forecast.

Big Tech’s market power has grown in part through strategic acquisitions

  • Facebook made a smart bet by acquiring Instagram back in 2012. This year, Instagram will account for almost half (48.1%) of Meta’s US digital ad revenues. Thanks to Instagram, about 1 in 5 digital ad dollars will still go to Meta this year. But its share of the market peaked in 2020—the same year the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against the company to force it to divest Instagram.
  • Google has also made some shrewd acquisitions. YouTube, which it acquired in 2006, will represent 10.6% of Google’s US ad revenues this year, netting more than any of its competitors in streaming video.

But Google’s 2007 acquisition of ad tech company DoubleClick has been of greater interest to US and EU antitrust regulators. At the time, the FTC approved the deal, but with one prescient dissenting opinion from Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour. “Post-merger, the combined Google/DoubleClick will become a ‘super-intermediator’ with access to unparalleled data sources,” she warned.

  • But smaller purchases also add up. In 2021, the FTC found that Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft collectively made 616 nonreportable acquisitions over $1 million between 2010 and 2019. These deals were too small to be declared, flying under the radar of competition authorities and allowing Big Tech to expand slowly and quietly.

The scales are weighted in Big Tech’s favor

  • Big Tech is a big deal for advertisers. Although some of these large platforms are losing market share, many marketers’ strategies hinge on these companies. Marketers can reach larger audiences with relative ease—especially if they use AI and automation to do the heavy lifting of ad creation and budget allocation.
  • Modest oversight won’t cut it anymore. With deep pockets and a commanding share of their respective sectors, Big Tech could easily curtail fair competition. Regulators are arguing they’ve already done just that. And new competitive dynamics emerging around AI are giving antitrust officials another reason to monitor Big Tech.

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