What does the AI oligarchy mean for the end of third-party cookies and digital advertisers?

June 22, 2022 | 5 minute read
Ryan Boh
Head of Activation and Identity Product Strategy, Oracle Advertising
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I hate to admit it, but I think about the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) oligarchy often and what it means for everyone in the digital advertising field working with vast amounts of customer data and data privacy regulations.

What is the AI oligarchy?

For those of you who don't, maybe start poking at it a bit.  But here’s a brief definition. “AI oligarchy” refers to the consolidation and use of AIs within a small, powerful group.

While I'm thrilled to see progress on industry norms created for advertising and marketing tech, it is still quite clear there's still a lot that we don't know. The symbiotic relationships between government regulations and technological advances offer substantial implications to companies and their current or prospective customers.

The brashness of GDPR may have drastically diminished innovation in the EU and nearly universally negatively impacted navigation on the world wide web with the famous cookie disclosures. But new pushes for legislation in the EU focused on translating consumer preferences to verticalized applications seems to be a much better approach and allocation of gov resources.

When smaller firms like Lockr and Data Pool, or major enterprises like Oracle are actively creating solutions that help advocate for consumers and companies, it undermines the impetus often cited for regulation: government or tech inaction.

What does the future hold for digital advertising?

My favorite most recent example of this is Oracle's confirmed acquisition of Cerner. The reason behind that acquisition was all the gaps we discovered when providing pandemic management software for governments.

Get the details on Oracle acquiring Cerner and what it means for the future of healthcare.

Why walled gardens matter

When consumer-centric approaches service consumers better than government edicts, it means enterprises are putting customers first by partnering with governments.

In other words, the greatest ironic referendum of GDPR, IMHO, is that despite the many years it took to bring it to fruition, tech companies directly governed by it have elected to eliminate third-party cookies at the snap of a finger, while publishers erect paywalls to secure business continuity.

Find out 5 ways to prepare for the upcoming changes to cookie targeting.

These paywalls evolve into "walled gardens" that prevent the free flow of ad-funded information, so publishers are forced to find other monetization mediums (subscriptions being most popular for major publishers).

Ultimately the sense I have is that all the information, data, use cases, and even misuse is nascent. In the history of the world, the level of information currently available has never before been possible, and this comes with responsibility.

For example, look at the great mental health crisis facing most first-world countries. What does the huge volumes of data now available in the world have to do with it? Well, maybe the economics of choice is starting to stress us out with the sheer volume of information available.

Does this mean the “walled off” internet saves us from ourselves as opposed to the “haves vs. have not” mantra we often recite as a retort to pay walls?

While the risks of fragmentation may undermine regulatory efforts, it’s also important to remember that the tech is in its infancy and only the most controlling governments in the world have policies that allow it to “slowly” drip into existence. I’m thinking countries with fewer than 50 websites or governing what and when minors access the internet. Elsewhere the internet is still closer to the wild frontier.

Hope for digital advertisers

What gives me great hope is that while governments act, the private sector has been proactively rolling out customer-centric tools and solutions that have the capacity to simultaneously support government regulations (both passed laws or those in the works) and decouple consumers from conceptually predatory behaviors driven by tech companies.

Get the Digital Marketer’s Guide to Contextual Insights and Trends to learn how to create effective ad campaigns in a cookieless world.

The dissonance between understanding theoretical compliance and the legitimate skillset to technologically audit and secure compliance should cause great concern for anyone who believes that regulation is the best answer to the AI oligopoly.

The next generation of profitable and ubiquitous companies will take the novelness of the internet and its challenges and materialize it into something that makes accountability easy. This seems more feasible with government support, opposed to edicts that operate against “gotcha” policing models found during highway speed traps. To date these "speed trap" penalties often appear like government tithes from the A.I. oligopolists as they pay respects to the laws they cowrote.

We shouldn’t have regulations that nearly exclusively penalize the most popular offenders. Instead, we should have technological protocols that eliminate the abuses.

Thoughtful consumer centricity and innovation will transcend whatever materializes into the complex global regulatory frameworks. This is caused by the speed for which thoughts may evolve into innovations in contrast the speed to regulate anything.

Learn how to protect your brand’s reputation while improving media performance with this guide for advertisers.

Perhaps this is an oligopoly that consumers might prefer and one that they can cheekily "opt into?" To take it further, perhaps the liabilities of in-platform algorithms may lead to a generation of algorithmic deconstruction established through data/platform cooperatives?

When it comes to engineering, setting out to do good is not nearly enough. Learning from mistakes and integrating the good into the technology is paramount. Ideally this would ultimately lead to fulfilling the consumers “telos” (the term Aristotle used to describe the intentional actualization of something or someone’s potential).

Rather than focus on the negatives we find in bad acting associated with few controllers, lets embrace innovations that Aristotle would have wanted, for everyone to have a happy and therefore virtuous lives.

Find out how to create impactful ads without wasting your ad spend in the new, cookieless world with:



Ryan Boh

Head of Activation and Identity Product Strategy, Oracle Advertising

Ryan is the Head of Activation and Identity Product Strategy at Oracle Advertising. In his role, Ryan is responsible for consulting senior product leaders, identifying cross-product development opportunities and extrapolating MADtech industry trends. Ryan received his Bachelors in International Business and Management from Benedictine College and his Masters of Science from Regis University.

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