On Jan. 17, Facebook’s head of global media partnerships, Campbell Brown, answered questions at the India Today Conclave for the latest batch of candidates to run in America’s midterm elections in November.
Brown listed several of Facebook’s important relationships, including partnerships with Google, Amazon, and Apple—the latter two, she explained, as part of Facebook’s bid to let users purchase goods through the social network.
“As you think about how we encourage you to shop on Facebook, one of the things we look at is on-page search advertisements,” Brown said. She added, “In the past, there were on-page, targeted search ads that I believe were very limited in scope. But by working with these companies, I think you’ll find that you’ll find the search ads you’re looking for will be tailored to you.”
Google and Facebook aside, Google’s search engine competitor, Microsoft, is a partner with the firm, too. Google also has an advertising business with Oath—including its Yahoo, AOL, and HuffPost properties—which is more expensive than competing services, and has twice as many advertisers as Google. Facebook and Google, by contrast, generate all of their revenue from advertising.
“This is a virtuous cycle,” Brown said, “with Google and Facebook — we’re trying to drive up Google’s fee because Google monetizes the ROI—so we’re actually helping each other.”
Trump, Trump, Trump.
On Facebook, the announcements have all been made by far-right figures—because that’s where you hear about it. The news of the partnership with Google arrives on the heels of Trump’s publicizing of an agreement, without disclosure, between himself and Google, Amazon, and Microsoft.
In October, Trump tweeted a discussion of Google News, saying that it helped Microsoft win the 2016 election for Hillary Clinton. That Trump was using Microsoft’s email server for campaign reasons, according to the Associated Press, was extremely unlikely. After learning of Trump’s Twitter invitation to Microsoft, Microsoft executive Brad Smith replied, saying that Microsoft officials “didn’t just pretend not to see his tweet,” but “actually connected with him directly to explain why our work to address election interference isn’t at odds with his worldview.”
This scandal (paywall) over protecting the privacy of users and political activists might be just part of the Trump administration’s strategy to undermine Google, and that it is taking a shot at Google’s search engine in particular. Trump called Google a “total monopoly” in January 2018, and again in April of that year, just before the election, saying he’d look into it.
This seems to be something of a new pattern for Trump. As an amateur businessman and self-admitted better campaigner than most, Trump has relied on intimidation to influence political decisions—often with risque language. “Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Never Trump crowd. Give me your heads!” Trump said on Twitter.
“When Trump’s sycophants were courting him to get him elected, they tried to make sure he gave Wall Street a high rating,” Bloomberg reported in September 2017. “Now they’re coming around again in an effort to make sure he gets re-elected.”
This Trump strategy seems to reflect a different goal, not just from Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, but from the big companies themselves. In their quest to use advertising to power their businesses, they’re prioritizing their relationship with Google and Facebook—and trying to ride the tide of confusion into the White House, rather than engaging in a back-and-forth fight that could derail whatever deals are made.
This is something that could become normal in politics, and in the economy as a whole. Amazon is one of the largest advertisers in the US, and it works hand-in-hand with Google to place ads across products Amazon has made.
Whether those deals are made on unfavorable terms or not, it’s not surprising that these companies would need to pay Facebook and Google to work together. The beauty of the entire chain—from the ad companies, to the networks and content aggregators, to the websites and social networks—is the massive amount of money they make.
The question is how much money they’ll continue to make.