Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft – the giants of US Big Tech are growing larger and more powerful each year. Their sheer size has begun to suffocate smaller AdTech companies, posing not just an economic threat but also jeopardizing Europe's most sacred asset: democracy.
The combined market value of the five American digital giants has surged by 50 percent this year, reaching around nine trillion dollars. To put it in perspective, this is almost a quarter of the total value of the S&P 500, which represents the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the USA and has only risen by 17 percent this year. While this may sound like the American Dream for the tech giants, it signifies a dangerous trend when one of the most significant indices in global finance captures only a fraction of the economy. The risk of concentration is evident. Moreover, voices from various quarters are increasingly critical, accusing the Big Five of forming insurmountable monopolies through dubious methods, controlling global internet traffic, and reaping immense profits.
This criticism seems justified. In September, the US Department of Justice initiated the largest antitrust case of the past two decades against Google and its parent company, Alphabet. In June, the EU acted by adopting the Digital Markets Act, classifying several major US tech companies as "gatekeepers" to prevent them from abusing their positions. However, questions arise: Is this enough, or does it require more? More pressure, more unity, a concerted effort from the European AdTech scene?
We must collectively confront Big Tech!
For those in the local AdTech industry, the dominance of Apple, Meta, and others is painfully apparent. These US giants have dictated the terms for decades, dominating the European market while offering seemingly good products. However, they show little regard for European interests and needs. Despite promoting free speech, liberal coexistence, and transparency with their technological achievements, the reality is different.
The Big Five regulate the global dataflow, with most internet traffic in Europe running through their platforms and networks, orchestrated by algorithms known only to them. Their working methods and data control remain trade secrets. Their business practices consistently raise questions, and the original idea of a free internet with unlimited possibilities for exchanging and disseminating information has long been sacrificed by the founding fathers of these corporations. Their focus is now solely on power and profit maximization, willing to stifle any competition to achieve their goals.
However, the competition is us –European AdTech companies that uphold European values, operate transparently, and adhere to rules instead of exploiting regulatory gaps. Those who contribute to local value creation, consider it a privilege to be based here, and willingly pay taxes. Issues like GDPR, Privacy by Design, AdVerification, and the responsible handling of data are genuine concerns. While individually we may not stand a chance against the systemic power of US giants, together, we can achieve much.
Publishers must also take a stand
Independence in our media landscape has long ceased to be free. To offer quality journalism, most media houses rely on advertising, with online advertising playing a crucial role in the digital age. Those reliant on online advertising to survive often believe they have no choice but to engage with the offerings of the tech giants. And it's not surprising! These giants have swept through our markets in recent years, imposing their opaque models and holding us hostage. As media scholar Martin Andree said in an interview with NDR, they have grown into a monster that decides over the media's basic supply. True access to information looks different. "If we do nothing, the future is very predictable," says Andree. "A large part of our media reality will be on these platforms. And they will control that media reality. (...) We have no real access to it. And thus, we lose control over our democracy."
But it doesn't have to be this way! In Europe, we also have a fantastic AdTech offering from companies that share the same ideals of freedom and security as local media houses. They uphold similar lifestyles, values, and traditions, appreciate diversity, and are committed to democracy.
However, to ensure this continues in the future, we must now, more than ever, pull together – in Europe for Europe!
Richard Tuschkany, Founder & CEO, ConnectAd