Modern Marketing Adtech Brand Purpose

From Apple to Yahoo: a list of tech companies that hated advertising (Elon, take note)

By Martin Kihn | Senior vice president, marketing cloud

November 22, 2022 | 6 min read

A disdain for advertising doesn’t seem to last long in the big tech scene.

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Advertising doesn’t always have a shining reputation among tech entrepreneurs / Adobe Stock

Elon Musk does not have a love-hate attitude toward advertising: he hates it. At least, that’s what he said – on Twitter, of course – back in 2019: “I hate advertising.”

This may be a curious attitude for a new media mogul whose most recent acquisition – that same Twitter – is almost entirely ad-supported.

But it turns out that Musk is not alone. The history of major ad platforms is littered with righteous founders who did not like the business they now dominate. In fact, it’s difficult to find a founder who expressed any fondness for ads, let alone adtech.

But when revenues are required, attitudes change; call it a pivot to reality.

Here – in alphabetical order – are the original attitudes of the great modern ad businesses. What’s the lesson? That we change as we grow? Maybe. Or maybe, like Musk, we all need to learn a little respect.

Amazon

“Advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product or service.”

– Jeff Bezos, founder (2009)

Apple

“If a business [ie advertising] is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.”

– Tim Cook, chief executive officer (2021)

Facebook (now Meta)

“I say it’s time to start making money from Facebook but Mark [Zuckerberg] doesn’t want advertising. Who’s right?”

– Eduardo Saverin, co-founder (2004), quoted in The Social Network

Google

“... [W]e expect that advertising-funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of consumers.”

– Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders (1998)

Instagram

“If we were to just build a product for advertisers, we would have no consumers.”

– Kevin Systrom, co-founder (2012)

LinkedIn

“Silicon Valley is not particularly good at marketing.”

– Reid Hoffman, co-founder (2021)

Netflix

“We want to be the safe respite where you can explore, get stimulated, have fun, enjoy, relax – and have none of the controversy around exploiting users with advertising.”

– Reed Hastings, co-founder (2020)

Oculus

“It’s not clear right now that advertising is the right model for virtual reality anyway.”

– Palmer Luckey, co-founder (2015)

Snapchat

“I got an ad this morning for something I was thinking about buying yesterday, and it’s really annoying.”

– Evan Spiegel, founder and chief executive officer (2015)

WhatsApp

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”

– Jan Koum, co-founder (2014) [channeling Fight Club]

Yahoo

“We are probably the last people in the world that want to do this [ie advertising], but it will be tastefully done, and that will keep it free to the users, like TV.”

– Jerry Yang, co-founder (1995), quoted in Inside Yahoo by Karen Angel

Martin Kihn is senior vice-president, strategy, marketing cloud, Salesforce.

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