sandberg: Sandberg leaves a complicated ad legacy

Sheryl Sandberg once remarked that she felt she was put on earth to scale organisations and, during her career as one of the most powerful executives in Silicon Valley, she ploughed straight toward that grandiose vision.
As an advertising head at Google in the mid-2000s, and as chief operating officer at Facebook for 14 years until her resignation on Wednesday, Sandberg oversaw a period during which the internet services ballooned to colossal sizes, fed by a seemingly endless fountain of advertising revenue.
Though Sandberg may get most of her name recognition from ‘Lean In’ — her 2013 blockbuster book encouraging women to take charge in the workplace — her most significant and complicated legacy may be the tech industry’s reliance on personalised advertising, which created both profits and complex nightmares at immense scale.
Sandberg was one of the people who made Google’s ad business so enormous that it became an essential part of every advertiser’s budget. Then, after she joined Facebook in 2008, four years after it was created, she brought that same self-service model to the social networking company, now called Meta Platforms. Instead of targeting users based on their search queries like Google did, Facebook could target based on what it gleaned of their personal identities, connections and interests. An entire industry of other tech companies followed suit with business models that offered products for free and made money off of users’ personal data instead.
“Sheryl had a front-row se- at at the two largest and most successful advertising platforms in history,” said Patrick Keane, the chief executive of- ficer of Action Network, a sports media firm, who worked with Sandberg at Google in the early aughts. Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W Baird & Co, wrote that Sandberg’s lasting impact is the success of that advertising model: “Her legacy, in our view, is that Meta has one of the strongest business models in the digital economy. ”
In recent years, Sandberg’s public image was tarnished alongside the mounting criticisms against Facebook, where she was widely seen as a powerful No. 2 executive. Her expertise in legal, operations and policy complemented chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s preference for product, engineering and forward-looking technologies like virtual reality.

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