DOJ Takes Aim At Google Ad Tools Amid Antitrust Investigation

DOJ Takes Aim At Google Ad Tools

Google ad tools have taken center stage in the Justice Department’s antitrust investigation of the search giant.

As part of the probe, the DOJ talked with publishers, advertising technology firms and advertising agencies regarding Google’s online ad tools, sources told The Wall Street Journal, as reported on Wednesday (Feb. 5).

The DOJ has made comprehensive inquiries about the company’s third-party advertising business and its dealings with publishers and advertisers, and has also questioned Google’s competitors and management, the sources said.

Google’s advertising enterprise stemmed from its purchase of DoubleClick in 2008.

Among the entities questioned were News Corp, which publishes the WSJ; The New York Times; Gannett; Nexstar Media Group and Condé Nast, per the report.

At the center of recent inquiries is the combining of Google’s ad server and ad exchange, as well as its policy mandating that advertisers use Google’s tools to purchase YouTube advertising.

“They are zooming in on the right topics, and that’s a good thing,” Michael Nevins, chief marketing officer of Smart AdServer, told WSJ. Smart AdServer’s advertising technology competes with Google’s tools.

The investigation’s growing attention on ad tools prompted DOJ Antitrust Chief Makan Delrahim to excuse himself last week, sources familiar with the investigation said. Delrahim served as an advisor to Google in 2007 when the company was seeking the go-ahead from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to buy DoubleClick.

Google has said its decision to merge advertising products was for the good of its consumers. Its ad-tech business includes software that is used across the internet to buy and sell ads. Competitors have countered that the combined tools, along with Google’s ownership of both search and YouTube, stifles competition.

The DOJ is also reportedly probing Google’s search business and has questioned competitors like Yelp, DuckDuckGo and Oracle.

As investigations deepen, some Google executives are talking quietly about whether the tech giant should get rid of its third-party ad-tech business, sources said.

The DOJ recently met in Washington, D.C. with state attorneys general representatives, the FTC and the House Judiciary Committee to review collective investigations of Google.