Navigating the Three Internets

Ryan Kelly
by Ryan Kelly 16 Jan, 2023

Facebook, Google, and 'Other'

How Internet Fragmentation is Creating World Wide Pain for Marketers


Potential customers abandon site shopping carts all the time. But the digital journey they now take after leaving your site has become much more fragmented and challenging for advertisers to keep track of.

Does your potential customer visit a competitor's site? Does she check her Gmail or Yahoo email? Where will she spend her next thirty minutes online or even her next ten "digital hours"? On Instagram? Buzzfeed? YouTube? Listening to music on Spotify?

Over the past few years, advertisers have witnessed explosive growth in the diversity of inventory sources and pressure is mounting to orchestrate digital ad campaigns across these sources to reach consumers.

Navigating the 'three internets'

Looking beneath the surface, advertisers can break the internet down into three pieces: The Google internet, the Facebook internet, and the open internet. Most consumers are blissfully unaware of this fragmentation and enjoy a utopian-esque browsing experience. However, if you're an advertiser you must be aware of this fragmentation because each internet has a different entry point.

AdWords is the entry point to the Google internet. It enables advertisers to reach consumers on Google search, Google shopping, Gmail, Google Maps, and YouTube. Facebook Ads Manager is the entry point to the Facebook internet, allowing marketers to reach consumers on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. DSPs (demand-side platforms) are most often the entry point to the open web, bidding into dozens of ad exchanges, each of which sells inventory for thousands of websites and apps.

It's common knowledge that Google and Facebook dominate the U.S. digital ad market. According to eMarketer, they both rake in about 63 cents of every dollar of digital ad spend, leaving "other" with the remaining 37 cents. However, as these powerful media companies fragment the internet into walled gardens, it becomes increasingly challenging for brands to succeed with advertising. Programmatic ad campaigns, such as remarketing, come with the allure of delivering ads to the right person at the right time and place. Yet creating opportunities to engage consumers so precisely requires coordinated media buys across all three internets. This introduces a huge challenge for advertisers: orchestration.

Because AdWords, Facebook Ads Manager, and DSPs are independent systems without any formal integration, the media buying decisions of one system have no impact on the decisions of the others. But orchestration of ads across the three internets is essential for delivering a positive consumer experience and making the most of marketing dollars. How do brands ensure consumers are exposed to the appropriate volume of advertising, regardless of where on the three internets they roam? The answer is that most of the time brands don't ensure it.

The trouble with siloed remarketing

Marketing departments frequently have siloed teams to cover each of the three internets. The search team owns the AdWords account. The social team similarly controls all things Facebook. The display team owns DSPs, handling remarketing on the open web.

The problem with silos is that they create cost inefficiencies and disrupt the consumer experience. Sure, this approach engages with a brand's cart abandoner on Instagram, YouTube, Pandora, and anywhere else on the three internets, but it also over-extends your message, hitting a consumer with the same ad on multiple apps and sites. The siloed marketing team has no way to control this ad frequency across internets and the result is the infamous "Stop following me!" reaction from the targeted user, coupled with wasted ad spend.

Ten years ago, these three internets didn't exist and a digital advertiser's job was a lot easier. However, if advertisers ignore this fragmentation or become too complacent with current ad buying tools to deal with it, they risk over-saturating some consumers with advertising while neglecting others.

Is it possible for a large orchestra to perform without a conductor? Yes. But most orchestras realize they're better off with someone giving guidance and direction. It's time for brands to change their approach and put a conductor in charge of orchestrating their digital campaigns across the three internets.

About the Author: Ryan Kelly is the VP of Marketing at Nanigans.