Privacy, Antitrust and Google Ads

Digital advertising is in a tight spot. Dominated by a handful of players — Google, Facebook and Twitter —  the industry’s fortunes rise and fall with decisions of Tech Giants. In the last year or so, the forces of antitrust, privacy and misinformation have started driving Big Tech to make some changes. The industry needs to pay close attention to events outside of its immediate sphere — particularly politics and policy —  if it wants to continue to thrive in the face of the business altering changes will just keep coming.

Google: Antitrust and Privacy

Google dominates search ads, and, with Facebook, controls more than 60% of the broader digital ad market, according to one estimate (although the possible waning effectiveness of Google ads was on display in the end-of-year 2019 financial report). With information on how billions of users move around the internet, what they click on, when they drop off and what they buy, Google ad data is a goldmine for marketers. For years, there has been pressure for Google to share more about their users with the ad industry. 

Google has resisted. This resistance has added some marketers to the growing call to investigate Google for antitrust issues (for a quick, interesting read about the the history of antitrust in the US and the argument for using it against Big Tech — not just Google– check out Tim Wu’s The Curse of Bigness). Some presidential candidates have built a Big Tech Breakup into their platforms. The EU is already a step ahead, announcing in February a plan to restrict machine-learning technologies. 

Realizing the issue is not going away any time soon, Bloomberg reports that Google has been considering a breakup of its business before regulators demand a breakup in some future scenario. Specifically, Google seems to be considering a preemptive spin-off of Adsense to shake off US and European antitrust investigations, at least for a time. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen to Google’s ad data if that happens. 

And, right there — the personal data Google has amassed, gold for marketers — is the other force shaping the future of advertising. Worries over privacy have started becoming codified — in laws like GDPR and CCP. Google, as well as other tech companies, has started limiting, not expanding as marketers would like, what information leaves its platform in an attempt to avoid theoretically huge fines. 

Google announced in January that it was starting a two year journey to completely remove support for third-party cookies on Chrome. This will cause massive changes to the advertising industry that depends on marketers’ ability to track users across the web. Google, wanting to preemptively calm the panic, over the summer announced a proposal for a Privacy Sandbox —  “an initiative aimed at evolving the web with architecture that advances privacy, while continuing to support a free and open ecosystem.” According to TechCrunch, this would 

“ideally still allow advertisers to show you relevant ads while also allowing you to share as little about you and your browsing history as possible.” It’s still unclear exactly what this looks like. 

Then, in February, Google took the next step and started limiting access to key tools that track ad spending, focusing on the ads that persuade people to install apps — a corner of the advertising world that generates billions of dollars of revenue for Google and other tech giants. The move sent panic through the halls of marketing agencies — it is now harder to independently track conversions. According to Adweek, some estimate it could depreciate campaign result visibility by more than 50%.

Unfortunately for marketers’ blood pressure, this is just the beginning. Already a reality in Europe, by Q3 2020, Google plans to stop advertisers from pulling data about who clicks on their web banner and video ads out of Google’s system. 

Privacy and antitrust are forcing Google to make changes that have outsized effects on the advertising industry that has grown up around Google’s data treasure trove. Google’s moves in the last year and the increasing likelihood of more drastic actions in the year to come, throw into high relief exactly the power of the search giant (too much, say the antitrusters). Marketers need to be flexible and adaptable and pay close attention to the bigger, macro trends that are (finally) forcing Big Tech’s hand. 

Highwire’s Top Fintech Predictions for 2020

From large financial services institutions like Mr. Cooper to disruptive financial technology startups like BlueVine and Credit Sesame, at Highwire we work with companies who are shaping the future of financial technology. We’re also in touch with journalists on a daily basis who cover everything in the financial commerce world, which gives us a unique perspective on the industry. While no one can say for sure what the future will bring, we do have some predictions for the coming year based on the latest trends and research.

As with all technology, fintech is evolving so fast that it can be hard to keep up. If you’re wondering what you can expect from fintech in 2020, here are our top four predictions:

  1. Banks, Banks, and More Banks

We’ve seen many tech startups launching banks in 2019, and this trend shows no sign of abating in 2020. With companies such as BlueVine working to power the next-generation of small business banking, it’s no wonder the booming fintech industry has been pegged as the ultimate bank “disruptor.” These startup banks tend to focus more on the consumer by giving them tools at the touch of a button, such as mobile credit cards. Big banks have even spent upwards of $8 million investing in digital technology, hoping to keep up with the small fintech banks in that regard. Expect to see new entrants with even more convenient features chipping away at big banks’ dominance. 

  1. Open Banking is Coming

Just because the U.S. is not subject to PSD2 doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be a push from consumers for banks to provide easy access to their data – in an effort to maximize the value that they get from their banking companies. In fact, 94 percent of FinTechs are already considering how open banking can enhance their current services. Look out for new and innovative API-based services from both banks and fintech startups in the next few years on both sides of the pond, with more tools designed to benefit the customer.

  1. Loans: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Americans’ insatiable demand for credit won’t slow down anytime soon. With fintech companies changing the way in which consumers access lending options, expect new loan products, as well as continued strong demand for existing products, in 2020 and beyond. The fact of the matter is, these fintech companies offer lending in a way that is different than what we’ve seen from big financial banks and institutions, including more perks and savings, alternative lending methods, and fast approvals with funds available sooner than later. Of course, all bets are off if there is any regulatory/legislative change to crimp demand. 

  1. More Fintech and Bank Partnerships

With robust growth in the private sector for the better part of the last decade, some sectors of the fintech market fear a slowdown and possible downturn in 2020 – and how we would react to that. That said, the continued consumer distrust of the traditional financial services and banking industries will most likely continue, and the demand for new, innovative, more convenient, and consumer-friendly services will continue. Of course, most of those offerings are built in partnership with fintechs, so we’ll see them continue to partner up with banks in 2020. 

What do you think? Will fintech thrive or dive in 2020? We’d love to hear your predictions. Leave your thoughts in our comments section below. 

What Happened at This Year’s Money 20/20

For fintech and payments companies of all sizes, Money 20/20 is a jackpot for networking and discussions on how technology will impact the future of money. Over the past year, we’ve observed new fintech companies break into the market, VCs flock to fund the next big idea and companies expanding to become a one-stop-shop for consumers and businesses. 

This year’s show trends were just as exciting. What happens in Las Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Las Vegas. Here’s what we saw and learned at this year’s show.

News that had a hot streak

Uber Money: Announced during a keynote, Uber is breaking into the financial industry offering drivers instant payments through a new no-fee checking account and debit card. Uber’s newest venture into finance is the latest venture of a startup venturing into territories previously held by traditional banks.

Amazon and Payments: No doubt with Amazon’s continued dominance in commerce that they’d make a splash by jumping into payments. At a keynote, Amazon announced a simple new Alexa tool, paying utility bills by voice.

BlueVine Business Banking: As startups continue to fill in the gaps where traditional banking falls short for consumers, BlueVine (a Highwire client) announced a monthly fee-free checking account service designed for small businesses – filling the gap left by traditional banks leaving most SMBs to use consumer accounts and pay $400+ in fees. 

What’s Trending

This year’s official #Money2020USA Twitter hashtag saw more than 24 million potential impressions from more than 1,200 contributors during the span of the show. During the span of the show, there was an average of 668 tweets per day with the hashtag. Looking at this year’s trends on Twitter, payments came away as the clear topic of interest. Just behind payments, AI was another buzzword top of mind during the show. Meanwhile, blockchain, cashless and cryptocurrency fell short on capturing Twitter’s attention.

20/20 Planning Tips

With the size and magnitude of Money 20/20, breaking through the noise to reach customers, reporters, potential partners and investors can prove to be challenging. As we enter planning for next year, consider standing out with digital activations. Having an always-on social strategy with video, polls and Q&As is a strong way to cut through the noise.

Using the right hashtags is key to reach a broader audience. For example, using #Money2020 saw nearly a third of the impressions as the official #Money2020USA tag saw, even with about half the number of tweets and contributors.

At this year’s show, Highwire PR had five clients in attendance. With our roots in journalism and deep experience in fintech, learn how we can elevate your story through traditional and digital communication campaigns. Reach out to our payments/fintech lead, Kim Paone, or shoot us a note at hi@highwirepr.com to learn more.

A Peek at Tech Trends Impacting the Shopper Experience

Next to the ice cream counter was a 13-year-old boy slowly inching further and further away from his mom while scrolling through the latest photos on his iPhone. A sea of people and ghost plush toys named Snarky surrounded us. We admittedly were intrigued to stop by the Kith Treats store in the new Hudson Yards shopping mall because of its Lebron James flavored ice cream, but others were trickling out from behind closed doors of a ticketed area — Snark Park. The boy told us he had been waiting for months to be a part of this new experience by Snarkitecture, which combines museum-quality installations with exclusive retail. It certainly wasn’t just about the ice cream. 

 

 

When thinking about shopping in America, it’s hard not to go straight to the importance of experience. Whether it’s collaborating with athletes and celebrities to delight your customers with treats or providing a gated, exclusive exhibit — the way that brands get people in the door has forever changed, and with good reason. As we’ve seen from the tsunami of mall closures across America, the convenience of a mall isn’t a driving force like it used to be thanks to Amazon and other direct-to-consumer online brands. To attract customers and build loyalty today, brands have to establish a connection that’s fueled both on and offline and goes beyond the products themselves.

As brands gear up for the 2019 holiday shopping season, here are a few technology trends impacting the shopping experience:

Made for Me: E-commerce subscription box services are mainstream, mostly due to a customer’s ability to try multiple products without a major monetary investment. But they’ve also helped fuel the move to personalization. Whether it be skincare or vitamins designed just for you or a virtual shopper that gets your style exactly right — retailers are focused on drilling down far beyond the age range and location of their customer — and instead to their exact desires. With AI and targeting efforts only improving, we’ll see retailers use technology to reach customers on a more personal level than ever, both in-store and online.  

But is it Instagrammable? The in-store experience isn’t just about providing easily accessible products to people who are browsing or coming to the store with a product purchase in mind — it’s about making people wish they were there, too. For example, at the Hudson Yards mall just about everything is an Instagrammable experience — the artwork between storefronts, the brightly colored stores and entertainment on site — even a climbable landmark! FOMO is all too real for today’s shoppers. 

Frictionless Checkout (Wherever & However): It’s no secret that checking out is one of the worst parts of shopping — online or in-store. In recent years, we’ve seen the industry make strides in-store with self-service checkouts and even Amazon paving the way for no checkout, just grab and go. In order to make the checkout process faster, retailers are going “cashless” and deploying mobile checkout stands throughout stores. During the busy holiday shopping season when in-store real estate is particularly precious, it’s likely to become an even more important strategy. 

Yes, it’s only summer but it’s always a good time to think about the shopper experience. As we gear up for holiday shopping, what are your predictions for this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Plus, enjoy a few pictures from our trip to the Hudson Yards mall — it’s quite the place!