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Survivor: Adtech Edition. Layoffs, AI, and the Quest for Relevance

The capricious world of online advertising: where the only constant is change, and the recent shifts are as dramatic as a telenovela finale. As 2023 waved goodbye, the industry stood tall, proud of its employment zenith. But as we all know, what goes up must come down.

Enter the stage, the seers of the corporate realm at Davos. A quarter of these crystal-ball gazers foresee generative AI not just changing the game but also clearing the board, predicting workforce reductions north of 5%. This isn’t just any old survey; it’s a PwC classic, with insights from 4,702 chiefs across 105 countries. The sectors trembling the most? Media, banking, insurance, and logistics, with their eyes fixed on AI’s double-edged sword of profitability and potential job cuts.

But the story takes a twist. Not everyone’s sold on this AI-induced upheaval. Nearly half are skeptics, doubting any significant impact from AI’s sorcery. This sets the stage for a narrative of conflict and contrast within the industry.

2024, the year looming large on the horizon, seems scripted for mass layoffs, particularly in adtech. This grim forecast comes from Resume Builder’s survey of over 900 companies, painting a rather bleak picture for the year ahead.

Google, the behemoth of the tech world, has already started trimming its sails. A thousand employees were shown the door, and now the ad sales team is in the crosshairs. Chris Pappas, the voice of Google, talks of restructuring and realignment, but the underlying story is one of downsizing.

Philipp Schindler, Google’s senior vice president, in a memo that’s more revealing than intended, points to the Large Customer Sales (LCS) unit bearing the brunt, with the Google Customer Solutions (GCS) team emerging as the new focal point. This isn’t a sudden move; remember the layoffs in LCS last October? That was just the overture.

InMobi isn’t sitting this dance out either. They’re gearing up to bid adieu to more than 100 employees, marking their second round of layoffs in a year. Out of their 2,500-strong workforce, this might seem a drop in the ocean, but each drop creates ripples. They wrap this decision in the language of AI, market evolution, and competitive strategy. Yet, the underlying narrative remains the same – cuts and more cuts.

Spotify, not to be outdone, is playing its own game of corporate ‘Survivor’. They’re cutting loose 1,500 of their team, a significant 17% of their workforce, with adtech and advertising feeling the sharpest edge of the blade. They join the likes of Etsy and Amazon, who have also been wielding the layoff axe with a heavy hand.

So, what does this all mean? It’s a tale of transformation, driven by technological advancements and market pressures. The online advertising industry is at a pivotal point, with AI as the protagonist in this unfolding drama. For those in adtech, it’s a time of uncertainty, but also of opportunity. The industry is reshaping itself, and with every shift, new doors open even as old ones close.

2024 is set to be a year of significant change, with companies big and small reevaluating their strategies and workforce in response to the relentless march of technology and market demands. It’s a narrative of adaptation, innovation, and, yes, survival. The only question that remains: who will write the next chapter in this ever-evolving story?

Pesach Lattin
Pesach Lattin
Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pesach Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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