The Industry Reacts to DOJ Suing Google

Dan Meier 26 January, 2023 

The Justice Department’s (DOJ) antitrust lawsuit against Google has sent ripples across an industry that has waited years for the search giant’s ad market domination to face meaningful scrutiny. The filing accuses Google of monopolising the ad tech stack, neutralising its competitors and violating the freedom of the internet itself, recommending the ad tech business be broken up in order to restore competition. 

VideoWeek asked five industry experts for their views on the lawsuit, and what it means for the future of ad tech.

Matt Sotebeer, CSO, Digital Remedy

“My prediction is that it’s not a matter of if but when Google will be split up. The antitrust lawsuits may be designed to push Google to divide on its own. It may be more favourable for the tech giant to restructure through its own design rather than by force or with government intervention. Additionally, the recession may play a role in the likelihood that a split will occur as splits are more likely during market troughs. I predict the market will begin to improve prior to Q1 2024. For these two reasons, I believe in this instance it will be more of a slap on the wrist.

If Google were to divide, this would have a long-term positive impact on ad tech companies, marketers and consumers. Ad tech companies will have more freedom to have a dialogue around innovations that put marketers and consumers first, while having more room to develop products to accomplish those ends. Marketers will benefit from a much more competitive industry with lower costs and more innovative products. Decoupling the ad server from the exchange will open up the supply chain for more competition.

We could see significant shifts in advertisers focusing on the consumer path rather than supply path optimisation (SPO). With the publisher/supply side separated and a lot of companies and agencies having invested in SPO, the next evolution will be to focus more on optimising towards how consumers actually buy and providing quality ad experiences.”

Alexandra Theriault, General Manager, Spherical, Lotame

“This lawsuit has been a long time coming for Google. We’ve all watched them acquire, build and package technology that makes it near impossible for smaller and often more innovative businesses to gain or preserve a competitive advantage. Google consistently bolts on capabilities to their broader offering based on industry demand. They’re able to sell or package emerging tech at a fraction of the cost, because the vast majority of their revenue comes from Search and YouTube, and they can squeeze margins across the rest of their stack.

Publishers are the biggest victims. Nearly all publishers, globally, have migrated off competing ad servers over the past 10 years and onto Google Ad Manager (GAM). With an average of 40 percent and up to 80 percent of a publisher’s revenue coming from advertising, they’ve been handcuffed to Google, which makes it challenging, not to mention expensive, to utilise parts of the stack, without being a customer of the giant’s end-to-end solution. The reality is Google’s DSP (DV360) is the most adopted means of programmatic ad buying by brands, and it’s hard to monetise your inventory if it’s not available where buyers are buying.

I predict the DOJ will force Google to part ways with components of their stack, specifically their programmatic arm (DSP and SSP). This will feel more like a bee sting than anything serious to Google, given how concentrated their revenue is from Search and YouTube. Publishers stand to win if the spun-out business unit(s) more accurately and fairly manage header bidding auctions, awarding higher yield to the most qualified media and content producers.”

James Rosewell, Director, Movement for an Open Web

“Whilst the DOJ’s action is highly commendable, there is a considerable risk that the remedy, namely a forced sale of Google’s dominant ad exchange, would not prevent Google from manipulating ad exchanges. This is due to browser changes Google is pushing through at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the global standards-making body for the internet where Google enjoys an ‘outsized role in the formal stakeholder standards-making process’, according to Congress.

Browser changes would allow Google to increase the latency of rival bids, giving it a significant advantage, as well as increasing its share of data used for high value targeted ads relative to competitors.”

Nandi Gurprasad, CEO, Yearxero

“If we look at the remedy requested: ‘For divestiture of GAM and AdX, not for any buy-side divestiture.’ Here DV360 divestiture should be an additional remedy. Until any of this happens, we will not see meaningful impact to other players. Investigating Project Poirot [which allegedly manipulated advertisers’ spending] would be a good starting point.

Google may react with swifter changes to its cookie policy.

It’s probably the most complete and unfair end-to-end domination and control of an industry where one player controls or dominates:

  • OS
  • Browser
  • Search
  • Email
  • Own media properties
  • Ad platform across demand and supply

In the current setup, any manipulation or restriction provides unfair advantage.

The misconception that the ‘Internet is free’ is wrong. The data collected and monetised by the triopoly is highly valuable.”

Wayne Blodwell, founder and CEO, TPA

“There are genuine pros for having an integrated Google tech stack across the buy and sell side, but, is Google being innovative with the ad industry opportunity, or is it squeezing the competition out of the market? Maybe both? If you only care about effective advertising then robust integration is incredibly important, but if you only care about competition, there’s nothing worse than what they have managed to do. This one will take a while to resolve itself but it will for sure not only shape how Google operates but how the entire industry approaches interoperability.”

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