Q1 in Ad Tech: TikTok Turbulence, Privacy Sandbox and the DMA

In the first of our new quarterly wraps, head of content John Still takes a look at the events that have defined Q1 2024. Let’s see what's made the headlines since January.

Q1 2024 is in the books, and in much the same way it monopolises attention, TikTok has spent the first quarter of the year hoovering up headlines. First, the good news for the social platform: in Q1 the company reported that US sales hit record figures last year, at USD$16bn (£12.5bn), with global revenues reaching USD$120bn (£94bn) in 2023 – up around 40% from the previous year. The ByteDance-owned, all-conquering video app looks on track to overtake Meta as the world’s largest social media company by sales. 

Sales may be booming in the US, but a fairly substantial roadblock looms. In March, the US House of Representatives passed a bill which gives TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance an ultimatum: sell the platform in six months or be removed from app stores etc. It’s not law yet, let’s see what the senate has to say…

Much of the Q1 conversations in ad tech were centred around the EU’s Digital Markets Act which has started to show its teeth in the early part of 2024. Google (and TikTok) have made changes to data practices to try to appease the EU regulators, but Alphabet is now under investigation, along with Meta and Apple, with anti-competitive actions being scrutinised. We chatted to Lazar Radic of ICLE regarding the DMA and ad tech here, and Ciaran O'Kane caught up with Damien Gerardin on a MadTech podcast special to delve deeper into the regulations.

2024 was always going to be focussed on cookie deprecation, and the long-promised, often-postponed removal of third-party cookies from Google’s Chrome browser began in earnest in Q1, with the first 1% disappearing. Whether Google kicks the can once more, or continues with the plan to complete the move in Q4 this year, the industry is gearing itself up for what could be a sea change for the media industries.

Movers and Shakers

M&A was back on the agenda in Q1, with Walmart making the biggest splash in acquiring Vizio for a hefty £2.3bn. Regarding the purchase, and specifically Vizio’s reported 18m active accounts, ExchangeWire’s Mat Broughton wrote: “Scale is king as we enter the post-cookie ecosystem, so being able to touch so many households in an inherently cookieless environment is an enticing prospect for marketers.”

Elsewhere in acquisitions, LiveRamp completed a deal for Habu to ‘accelerate data collaboration’. The deal, in excess of $200m, looks to be a move towards consolidation in the clean room arena. Late in the quarter, audio specialist Triton Digital made waves by picking up AI brand safety startup Sounder.

Disney has been making moves in APAC, announcing a USD $8.5bn (£6.2bn) deal to merge its India business with Reliance Industries, an Indian multinational conglomerate. It’s a massive deal for the House of Mouse: the merger creates the largest media entity in India, with both parties controlling over 85% of the country’s streaming landscape – or half of the territory’s TV audience.

ExchangeWire Most Read: January - March 2024

Playlists, Podcasts and Programmatic: The Future of Audio Advertising

The Rise of Retail Media Networks

Exploring the Booming Landscape of In-Game Advertising

APAC’s Biggest Programmatic Trends for 2024 

Privacy Sandbox and the Countdown to Cookieless

From the MadTech Podcast

“There’s a lot more pressure on marketers to work with legal and within regulations, to explore end to end where their product or service starts until it gets to the consumer, and to find out if there's greenwashing involved in any of those steps.”

Amber Williamson, CEO, Digital Willow

“We think brands and businesses need to be really aware of the relationship between TV and socials…it’s not about managing a community or being a social media manager, it’s about enhancing and harnessing the growth of communities. We see a really different play between what social and TV can do.”

Anna Lee-Bridgstock, Executive Director, Data and Product, Jungle Creations

"AI is a learning algorithm, it needs to be fed content. If those content creators aren't being compensated, generally through advertising, how is the AI algorithm going to learn?"

George Odysseos, CCO, Planet Sport