Babar Khan Javed
Jul 17, 2017

Oath's shot at rivalling the Facebook/Google duopoly

Following the amalgamation of Yahoo and AOL into Oath, a community of advertisers has spoken in favour of competition that challenges the duopoly.

Oath's shot at rivalling the Facebook/Google duopoly

Modern day advertisers, trapped between a rock and a hard place, are eager to work with a third player and break away from the duopoly of Google and Facebook. At least, that’s what Alex Khan, managing director of Asia and ANZ at Oath, told us. "What we are providing as Oath is a safe, transparent environment for publishers to take control of their inventory and their data. And as a publisher, we know how important that is."

Recently formed as an umbrella for AOL and Yahoo, the combined proprietary datasets of 1.3 billion unique users seems impressive in itself. "We're trying to ensure that no matter where you are in the world, whether you're local, regional, or global, you're using a standard product," added Khan.

And while demand centricity represents the go-to market strategy in Asia-Pacific, the global positioning leans towards a supply first publisher model. 

"Because we are the beneficiary of being a demand-side and supply-side platform, make no mistake about it: there is definitely an opportunity when we go into a client to ensure that the one can play with the other," Oath president Tim Mahlman told Campaign Asia-Pacific.  "When we go to market, its not always about the buy-side platform and in fact in many cases we'll start to lead with the sell side because of what we hold, the inventory." 

So it begs the question as to whether this new merger of data represents a threat to Google and Facebook. Nicolas Bidon, formerly of Yahoo and currently the global president of Xaxis, told Campaign Asia-Pacfic that true competition requires scale.

“There’s something like three or four billion people online. Roll back ten years ago; this was probably a tenth of that. So the size really matters," he said.  "And all the big players in this space have size. Putting together relatively big media assets, at least in the US, formed with telco data is interesting. Verizon has a lot of data on mobile, so in theory [the merger] was a smart move by Verizon.”

In practice, though, Bidon notes there are real challenges, such as the culture clash that may come from bringing Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo employees under one roof.

While hopes are high in some circles, others are skeptical. “Oath will probably end up working with Google and Facebook,” states Faisal Sheikh, chief digital officer at Starcom Myanmar. “Google and Facebook super-dominate the space but rely heavily on content created by others. Oath’s portfolio of brands revolves around content with added access to data. [With] more relaxed US laws around privacy, they should be able to create their own monopoly with reliance on the platforms for the propagation of content.”

When it was initially announced, duopoly fatigued advertisers rejoiced for a chance to return to the platforms most popular with baby boomers. It was also speculated that Oath would bring more to the supply chain of digital impressions and introduce announce viewing standards that match the needs of advertisers.

“Oath has about as much chance of dislodging Facebook and Google as a penny-farthing has of getting us to Mars,” scoffed Habibullah Khan, director of content at penumbra. “Advertising revenue enables the success of these models and advertisers to go where eyeballs are. Human nature when it hits the internet is to interact or to learn & query. Facebook has the market on the former, Google owns the latter. Oath simply does not have a value proposition to change these dynamics. Oath, however, does offer Verizon the ability to monetize its 100M customers better using supercookies with a friendly FCC and we feel that is where its niche lies.”

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