Because making predictions about this year would make me far too accountable. In 2022, big tech in the UK will be preoccupied by new regulations coming into force, here’s a look at how that might pan out.
1. Facebook will become WeChat
Still reeling from privacy restrictions kneecapping their ad tracking, Facebook will look at vertical integration as the solution. If you can’t track what happens after people leave Facebook then why let them leave? Expect the big blue app to become even more cluttered and feature packed. In China, WeChat lets customers order in a restaurant, apply for a loan or book a taxi, all within the app. Facebook will evolve their ecommerce offering, as well as formats like lead ads and Instant Experiences (formerly Canvas). This will let advertisers interact and transact with customers on their platform with unimpeded tracking.
Competition regulators will be unimpressed, but will also be doing their bit to make Facebook as feature heavy as possible. At some point, Facebook will be forced to allow closer integration with their direct competitors. This means allowing users to, for example, post full feature content directly from other social platforms into Facebook. By February, Marie Kondo will unfriend Mark Zuckerberg.
2. Google still won’t have a replacement for 3rd party cookies in Chrome
Google have decided we are all going to the cinema, but no one can agree on what we are going to watch. Now the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are investigating Google for trying to make us watch their favourite film. That they own the rights to. Google’s decision to move away from 3rd party cookies has left them stuck trying to balance privacy and antitrust considerations, all whilst protecting their own business model. They can’t do all three and their Privacy Sandbox initiative is not in a good place. Expect much kicking of cans down the road, all in the name of industry collaboration.
3. SERPs will go back to the future
By 2022, a new UK regulator, the Digital Markets Unit, will be fully in swing and taking aim at Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Much of the CMA’s recent (437 page!) Digital Markets Study was concerned with how Google have been making the most of their entrenched position in search. Things like additional paid listings, making paid & organic listings indistinguishable, their knowledge graph and poaching other people’s content to put into snippets. Expect the balance of clicks to shift from paid ads to organic results as regulators get to work.
4. Consent rates will plummet for Google and Facebook
New 'Fairness by Design' rules will prevent companies from making consent opt outs hard to find. Accept and decline options will need to be presented equally, alongside each other – much like Apple’s App Tracking Transparency notifications. These rules will initially only apply to the largest tech companies. Customers will shift from blindly accepting cookie consent notifications to blindly declining them. Adland will freak out.
5. The DoubleClick brand will make a comeback
No one liked that 2018 rebrand anyway. In 2022, Google will need to ringfence parts of their ad stack to appease the myriad of anti-trust concerns laid at their door. Top of the list to go in the UK, per the CMA’s Digital Markets Study, is their publisher facing ad server. It has a high market share, but running it leaves Google hideously conflicted. They will need to give it a different name to the rest of their stack so it seems like a separate entity. They will call it DoubleClick for Publishers.
Whilst reviewing their ad stack, Google will realise that perhaps it is a massive abuse of market power to ban other DSPs from selling YouTube inventory… or maybe that is a prediction too far.