Big Tech Critic Tim Wu Joins The White House; The Trade Desk Nips At Google’s Heels

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Big Critic

Tim Wu, a leading critic of big tech who coined the term “net neutrality,” is joining the White House in yet another sign that President Joe Biden is taking a hard look at the way large technology firms operate and wield their power. Wu, a Columbia University law professor who has long called for stronger enforcement of antitrust laws, was named to the National Economic Council as a special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy. According to The New York Times, Wu’s primary focus will be on competition policy at a time when tech companies are pushing back against new antitrust laws. Wu has loudly warned about the consequences of too much power being concentrated among only a few companies (wink, wink Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple). In Wu’s view, the nation’s economy has begun to strike an uncanny resemblance to the Gilded Age of the late 1800s. “Extreme economic concentration yields gross inequality and material suffering, feeding the appetite for nationalistic and extremist leadership,” Wu wrote in his 2018 book, “The Curse of Bigness.” Read on.

Emerging Rival

Google is a dominant force in the online advertising industry, but there’s one company that could give GOOG a run for its money: The Trade Desk. The Wall Street Journal reports that the buy-side platform is eating into Google’s slice of the ad market – and it’s share is actually growing faster than Google’s, albeit from a far lower base. If The Trade Desk keeps its momentum going, it’s poised to emerge as the most viable challenger to Google. TTD has made inroads by investing in parts of the online advertising segments, such as audio and streaming TV, where Google hasn’t already cornered the market. The COVID-19 pandemic also boosted The Trade Desk’s business as homebound Americans consumed more digital media. Still, The Trade Desk has its work cut out – and the company has no illusions about how difficult it is to take on a powerhouse. Google also has the ability to dominate the conversation with a single blog post, as it did last week when it said it didn’t approve of email-based cookie replacements. TTD’s stock fell nearly 13% on that piece of news. But The Trade Desk’s CEO, Jeff Green, remains optimistic about building an alternative targeting solution to rival Google’s approach. [Related in AdExchanger: “What Google Is – And Isn’t Saying – When It Says It Won’t Build Alternative IDs After The Death Of Third-Party Cookies”]

FLoC-ed Up

Speaking of Google … the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that defends “civil liberties in the digital world,” blasted Google’s plan to replace third-party cookies with the APIs currently being worked on in the Privacy Sandbox. But there’s one proposal in particular that the EFF called out as “a terrible idea,” and that’s interest-based cohorts or FLoCs. Short for “federated learning of cohorts,” the idea behind FLoCs is to put the browser in control of profiling as opposed to third-party trackers. Machine learning algorithms are used to group people into clusters based on their browsing behavior and target them using an on-device identifier. But in the EFF’s view, although FLoCs avoid some of the privacy risks associated with third-party cookies, it actually creates new problems – and could also exacerbate many of the worst non-privacy problems with behavioral ads, including discrimination and predatory targeting. The EFF is calling for FLoC to be rejected and urging Google to abandon the plan. Read on. [Related in AdExchanger:The Industry Reacts To Google’s Bold Claim That FLoCs Are 95% As Effective As Cookies”]

But Wait, There’s More!

As consumers migrate to ecommerce, marketers are starting to focus more on email. [Digiday]

Jeep is putting Amazon Fire TVs in its vehicles, and the Grand Wagoneer will be the first SUV with a front passenger “infotainment screen.” [Ad Age]

A recent NYU study found that far right sources on Facebook get more engagement than any other type of political posts on the platform. [The Washington Post]

YouTube has taken down five channels run by Myanmar’s military and military-controlled media entities for violating the platform’s community guidelines, following similar action by Facebook and Instagram last month. [Forbes]

Google is speeding up Chrome’s release cycle to every four weeks. [The Verge]

India is threatening to jail Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter employees as it seeks to quash political protests and gain far-reaching powers over discourse on the tech platforms. [WSJ]

The voting rights group started by NBA star LeBron James is upping its efforts to fight voter suppression measures in Georgia and around the nation. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

You’re Hired!

Reddit has hired Drew Vollero as its first CFO as the company prepares to go public. [The New York Times]

ADA Worldwide, the global independent distribution division of Warner Music Group, has named Cat Kreidich as EVP. [Billboard]

Independent marketing firm Proof Advertising has appointed Craig Markus as executive creative director and John Kottmann as chief strategy officer. [release]

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