The Implications of Partnering with Big Tech – AdExchanger
“Data-driven thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh insights into the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Martin Coady, Executive Director of Marketing Technology and Technical Studio Manager at VMLY&R.
Companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft are invading almost every aspect of our lives as consumers. And they also dominate the world of marketers. If you add their strategic partners (primarily Adobe and Salesforce) to complement their marketing technology capabilities, brands are inundated with the outsized influence of these tech powerhouses.
The big question is: have brands become too dependent?
You can outsource a surprising amount of your operations to Big Tech. But this comes with a range of costs and risks that are important to weigh against the benefits and opportunities.
A higher bet on brand safety
The more closely you align with a strategic technology partner, the more likely you are to face a backlash from any ethical scrutiny they face.
Ethical issues have historically focused on ads appearing alongside questionable or sensitive content. But now, it may be the behavior of tech companies themselves that plays a role — whether it’s how they treat customers, partners or employees.
Under this broader view, brand safety strategies that mitigate negative impact are key considerations.
If your competitive advantage depends heavily on the execution and innovation of Big Tech companies, your success also depends on them. Regulation resulting from unresolved ethical behavior could upset their model. A poor employee experience could hamper their ability to find and retain talent.
While these scenarios may seem unlikely at first, consider the rapid pace of the industry. Between rising customer expectations and rapidly changing technology, if a Big Tech player takes a misstep, you could face bigger hurdles than expected.
In addition to all of Big Tech’s unethical practices that misrepresent your brand, overreliance on their services could also create ethical issues internally.
For example, you may be inheriting biases from Big Tech that undermine your DEI efforts. Nearly 70% of American companies point out a lack of diversity in their tech workforce. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this lack of diversity shows up in the data companies use and the systems they build.
Blind trust in partners can undermine your ethical positions and efforts in this space.
To reduce the risk, get back behind the wheel
One of the most effective ways to mitigate ethical risks is to diversify your partnerships, bring in technologists in-house, or even develop the technology yourself.
Get back behind the wheel by following these key steps:
- Define your positions on critical topics. State them publicly to differentiate your values if questions about the ethics of your technology partners arise.
- Assess any potential new partner on their ethics and values. Do not work with partners whose opinions or actions you do not support.
- Learn from technology partners practicing good ethics. Follow Google’s lead and hire people without college degrees to increase diversity. Support them by offering them an online training course. Or borrow a page from the Salesforce playbook and offer free online training and badges to increase recruiting efforts.
- Encourage an open discussion about ethics. Be transparent about goals and results.
Ethics is not static
Just as technology is constantly changing, our conversation about its ethical implications needs to be revisited regularly.
Mike Schur, creator of the Good place, put it like this:
“The show started without taking a position [on ethics], partly because I didn’t have a job,” Schur said. “Over time, that changed, and the show really evolved into Aristotle. And that’s because Aristotle, in my mind, is the only one who says it’s possible to try. He’s the one who says it’s like playing the flute – the more you practice, the better you get. And personally, I love that idea.”