In the past week, Google became embroiled in a serious face-off against a firing squad of 50 state attorney generals related to the tech giant’s dominance over the digital advertising ecosystem. The funny thing though—Google seems to be the only one in the industry who doesn’t clearly see their unique business advantage.
The government probe is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said it will focus on Google’s “overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers,” according to Reuters
In response, there’s an entire blog post, written by a VP, Product Management at Google denouncing the Attorney Generals’ claims, arguing that, “Competition is flourishing, and publishers and marketers have enormous choice.” Sure, there are loads of players in the space, but is it a level playing field?
Surprising to no one (but Google apparently) ad tech executives can think of a gazillion reasons why the market is unfair and leaning in Google’s favor, including the ad titan’s stronghold of search and acquisitions of seller tools like DoubleClick and AdMob, among many other practices, according to Reuters.
According to eMarketer, in 2019 Google is positioned to remain the biggest digital ad seller in the world, accounting for 31.1% of spending, which is equivalent to $103.73 billion. So when the Google blog post mentions companies like Facebook and Google as competition it makes sense, especially in the US where all three eclipse the competition.
So when the post mentions ad tech leaders like Telaria, Rubicon Project and The Trade Desk, who rake in millions from ad spend, we’re not really talking about competition here now are we? Leaders from the Trade Desk and Telaria responding to CNBC Markets, note that since Google has such a long arm across the entire ecosystem that it’s really not a free and open pool they’re swimming in.
Advertisers feel that Google exerts too much power over rates and favors their own services.
Publishers see the irony in Google’s rebuttal as well:
Literally anyone in ad tech knows this blog post is a giant PR joke. I’ll file this one next to how much FB cares about privacy. https://t.co/8qWl8qmjUS
— Stephanie Layser (@slayser8) September 13, 2019
If Google were forced to break up, what might the future of ad tech look like? Would Google have to spin-off search or YouTube? And exactly what would that look like?
Would it mean that companies like The Washington Post (which really is Amazon after all) would have a real chance at garnering a reasonable market share with the new ad tech platform they launched this week called Zeus Prime (yeah, seriously we didn’t make this up) a self-service, real-time ad-buying tool aimed at other newspapers? Or would it mean that publishers would no longer be at the mercy of the walled gardens? Or would publishers build walled gardens of their own?
Depending on who oversees—the FTC or DOJ—Google’s antitrust case, we could end up with things remaining exactly as they are. You do remember that the FTC did approve Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick back in 2007, don’t you?
Whichever way the cookie crumbles, the ad tech ecosystem we know (and love/hate) today will invariably change, hopefully for the good toward an open and impartial marketplace.