Google Mulls Political Ad Changes; Grocers Want CPGs To Invest In Ad Tech

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Political Ad Firestorm

Google is considering changes to its political advertising policy, according to The Wall Street Journal and Axios. The reports come as Facebook is under pressure from users, issue groups and regulators to block some (or even all) political advertising. Twitter banned political ads last week, but Facebook has stuck to its guns so far, riding out an unpopular position that politicians can lie in ads on the platform. It’s unclear what Google’s changes will look like, but the policies will apply across all Google ad products, including Search, Gmail and YouTube, and thus could be an important factor in how candidates and campaigns reach potential voters during the 2020 election. More here and here. Related: Democratic candidates stand to lose the most if Facebook does revoke political ads or targeting.

Shopper-Lifting

Big grocers are prodding CPGs to increase their investments in ad tech. Steven Boal, CEO of Quotient, which handles advertising and data services for chains such as Albertsons, told investors on Wednesday that retailers are starting to require brands they carry to commit at least 1.5% of gross sales in their stores to their digital ad businesses. “That’s a pretty big change that’s taking place in the industry and it's brand new for 2020,” Boal said. Quotient also agreed to drop $15 million for Ubimo, an Israeli location data company that connects digital and OOH campaigns to in-store traffic and sales lift, with another $25 million on the table based on incentives over the next two years. Quotient’s market cap jumped by about 10% on Thursday after it reported revenues and the new acquisition.

Bad News Travels Fast

In another category, quarterly earnings are not going smoothly. Both Expedia and TripAdvisor shares dropped more than 20% after their investor calls on Thursday. For years, travel search companies have tried to wean themselves from internet platforms, and Google search in particular. Google previously was forced by the DOJ to allow travel rivals to access data from ITA Software, its airline data division. But that provision expired in 2017, and now rival travel booking services are slipping down Google search pages. Or their organic listings are, at least. Nowadays, travel companies must win paid search placements, instead of relying on reviews and consumer preference to pick a service from the top of a results page, TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer told investors. Expedia’s CFO, Alan Pickerill, called Google’s search algo change this year “a sizable headwind” for the company. Kaufer had much the same response. “Unfortunately we did see some incremental SEO headwinds over the course of the quarter,” he said. “It’s always hard to know exactly what Google is doing.” More at CNBC.

California Here We Come

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is suing Facebook to get the company to disclose evidence in a statewide investigation of its privacy practices. Becerra said Facebook has failed to comply with state requests for emails and other documents and its responses have been “patently inadequate,” Axios reports. The AG is looking for information on any consideration to restrict developer access to user data, third parties who received expanded access to user data and the relationship between ad spend on Facebook and access to data. So far, Facebook has “failed to provide, or even search for, responsive documents among the emails of the company’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and its chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg,” Becerra said. More.

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