The Digital Advertising Services Report released yesterday by the ACCC (link below) provides further insight and justification of marketers’ need to explore some alternatives to paid search on Google. The report found (not surprisingly) that Google has a considerable competitive advantage in the complex Ad-tech transaction arena, due to multiple factors that include its access to consumer and other data, access to exclusive inventory, and integration across its ad tech services.
In a previous blog article Will Your Online Ad Dollars Be Wasted I identified how marketing budgets were at risk of being misspent in paid search and social through poor decisions made by the ad buyer. The ACCC report identifies another layer of vulnerability for marketing budgets given Google’s dominant position in key parts of the ad tech supply chain.
The deep-dive into Google’s ad tech underbelly exposes the complexity behind what is presented as a simple Ad Words campaign. Experts dedicated to understanding the machinations of search algorithms, demand and sell-side platforms, and Google’s ad tech tentacles, will outperform the average SME having a crack at page one ranking in a popular search category or term.
Paid Search & Social Saturated Giving Other Channels More Appeal
Paid search and social obviously still have their uses, but the advertising landscape is shifting toward less saturated environments to connect and engage with target consumers. The rise and rise of streaming are infiltrating consumers’ screen time, at the expense of social content consumption and that’s why marketing budgets are flowing in that direction at pace. VOD or linear content delivery alternatives offer maximum marketing dollar value, using social and search to augment the innovative consumer-driven solutions they’re providing.
Worldwide though, Google is feeling the pressure to level the playing field in the ad tech zone, with organisations similar to ACCC internationally seeking to implement similar protocols to ensure a more competitive environment.
“Google’s activities across the supply chain also mean that, in a single transaction, Google can act on behalf of both the advertiser (the buyer) and the publisher (the seller) and operate the ad exchange connecting these two parties. As the interests of these parties do not align, this creates conflicts of interest for Google which can harm both advertisers and publishers,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
The report estimates at least 27% of advertiser spend on ads sold via the ad tech supply chain was retained by ad tech providers in 2020. The findings have inspired the ACCC to recommend rules be considered to manage conflicts of interest, prevent anti-competitive self-preferencing, and ensure rival ad tech providers can compete on their merits.
Market Dominance Not Good For Competitive Fair Play
Mr. Sims said “Many of the concerns we identified in the ad tech supply chain are similar to concerns in other digital platform markets, such as online search, social media, and app marketplaces. These markets are also dominated by one or two key providers, which benefit from vertical integration, leading to significant competition concerns. In many cases, these are compounded by a lack of transparency.”
The access Google has to a large volume and range of first-party data gathered through its customer-facing services, such as Search, Maps, and YouTube, and how they are able to use that data is a clear advantage for its ad tech businesses. The ACCC wants to implement measures and sector-specific rules, to address competition risk in the use of first-party data issues such as data separation and data access requirements.
The ACCC also found that the complexity of the supply chain contributes to a lack of transparency in the operation of ad tech services, which can make it difficult for advertisers and publishers to understand, much less detect misconduct.
As a result of the findings in the report, the ACCC would like ad tech providers to establish industry standards that allow ad tech customers to readily compare fees and take rates across different ad tech providers and services.
The report also identified specific transparency issues with Google’s publisher services and recommends that Google should be required to provide publishers with information about the operation and outcomes of its publisher ad server auctions.
“If Google fails to provide sufficient information, or the industry’s voluntary standards do not achieve transparency, then new requirements should be able to be put in place to address this,” Mr. Sims said.
The actual report is here