Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Google’s End-to-End Advertising Business Draws FTC Scrutiny

Bloomberg today reported that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is taking a hard look at Google’s display advertising business to evaluate whether it is cramming multiple products on customers and elbowing out competitors.

AllThingsD independently confirmed that this has been discussed at the FTC, but it’s in the earliest of stages. Google and the FTC both declined to comment.

The players are all too familiar, but the game is different, as the FTC largely cleared Google in a separate search and patent antitrust investigation last year.

Google is nowhere near as dominant in advertising as it is in search, but the company has clearly been building up its advertising stack through acquisitions and its own product development — with regulators’ permission, so far.

The cornerstone of those was buying DoubleClick in 2007, which the FTC itself cleared. The commission said at the time, “We want to be clear, however, that we will closely watch these markets and, should Google engage in unlawful tying or other anticompetitive conduct, the Commission intends to act quickly.” Since then, Google added other important buys such as AdMob and Invite Media and built its AdX ad exchange.

The question is whether Google is using anticompetitive tactics to try to force its combined “end-to-end” solution onto advertisers, for instance by taking a loss on some products in order to make the full package more attractive.

IDC reported this week that Google had 24.1 percent of the $3 billion U.S. display advertising market in the first quarter of this year, widening its lead over Yahoo and Facebook.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik