Google purchased DoubleClick back in 2007. While it was enough to draw heavy scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, the FTC ultimately gave the deal a greenlight as it couldn't find any grounds to prevent it from going through.
That was not without stipulation, however.
The FTC said at the time, "The markets within the online advertising space continue to quickly evolve, and predicting their future course is not a simple task. Accounting for the dynamic nature of an industry requires solid grounding in facts and the careful application of tested antitrust analysis. Because the evidence did not support the theories of potential competitive harm, there was no basis on which to seek to impose conditions on this merger. 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.”
The emphasis above is ours, but it's that part that's come into question. You can read the FTC's whole statement here.
Digiday has a lengthy report about how media buyers say Google is using its DoubleClick Ad Exchange as leverage in negotiations in getting them to use DoubleClick Bid Manager. Digiday's John McDermott reports:
Executives at media agencies told Digiday that Google is now trying to coerce them to use the two ad tech components together, effectively selling them as a single product in an industry practice referred to as “tying.” Specifically, Google is demanding that ad impressions bought on DoubleClick Ad Exchange, or AdX, be bought using DoubleClick Bid Manager, or DBM, if they are to count toward satisfying the agencies’ buying agreements with Google. That is, Google will not recognize AdX impressions that are not bought via DBM.
The move calls into question the various roles Google plays in the digital advertising system it dominates. Google is the operator of the largest ad exchange, AdX, while also operating a leading DSP, namely, DBM. Pressuring ad buyers to use them together raises questions about fair play since Google can effectively use access to AdX to limit competition within the DSP market.
McDermott also says the publication has been told by different ad tech companies that the FTC has been asking them (this year) about whether or not they think Google is abusing its power in relation to DoubleClick. While the FTC hasn't launched a formal investigation as far as anybody knows, it would seem that it has been poking around, which could mean that one is on the horizon.
The FTC is not publicly commenting on the matter, and Google has said it's not aware of a probe.
Image via DoubleClick