So last week I was reading TechCrunch’s article on Google Ads going under an antitrust investigation in Italy, and it led me to a very deep reflection about how much of an open secret the whole Google-Ads-being-a-monopoly situation actually is. So, if we all know it, then why is Italy one of the first ones in doing something about it? Well, today, we’ll go through a deep analysis on what’s actually going on there, shall we?
This investigation, which apparently has to be concluded before November 2021, began with a complaint made by the IAB group, an Italian advertising group, about Google abusing its dominant position in the Display Advertising Italian market. However, it’d be fair to say that this isn’t just happening in Italy, is it?
Google Ads is being investigated for suspicion of using data collected through its portals and applications to prevent other Ad platforms from competing effectively. So basically, since they are the number 1 chosen Search and Ad tool, they have access to pretty much every information available and, apparently, have been using it to their advantage.
Another fact that makes this investigation even more interesting and controversial, is that not too long ago Google Ads launched their Privacy Sandbox initiative with the idea of contributing to user privacy. The idea of said initiative was mostly to avoid individual tracking without jeopardizing Ad targeting. And let’s not forget their recent announcement about forbidding third-party cookies, right? So what’s actually the deal with Google Ads taking all of these actions “in favor” of privacy? Not to be cynical, or maybe yes, but to me, this sounds a lot like they are getting more and more hermetic in order to keep all of this “private” information to themselves and use it to remain as the top #1 in the world of Display Ads platforms.
However, Italy is not the first one to realize this. Last year, even the US Department of Justice filed a complaint against “Monopolist Google for Violating Antitrust Laws.” So basically, if everyone knows Google is a search monopoly, then why is it taking so much effort to actually do something about it? Google Ads keeps banning content, Google Ads keeps taking privacy actions to withhold information, Google Ads keeps shutting down accounts randomly, so why do we keep choosing Google Ads?
Well, the answer is pretty simple: Because no one else is doing it like they are. If today’s afternoon a brand new Search tool or Display Ads platform was launched and they were free and superior to Google, then everyone would just go and download it. No room for debate or conversations, when two things cost the same (which in this case is 0), then why wouldn’t you go with the best one? Unless of course, you have an emotional attachment to either of them, which I doubt you’ll have to Google.
Google’s whole platform offers a price-quality ratio that no one else offers. Their prime competitor is Bing, and who even uses Bing? Many users complain that Bing generates mediocre CTR numbers and even fewer conversions and that it takes much more effort to target the right audiences and keywords. Even when some of them (mostly the ones who target audiences over 34 years old) actually are happy with the results Bing got them, Google Ads is the most popular Display Ads tool nowadays, and that’s not just a random thing to happen.
However, this leads to another controversy: Is Google Ads actually the best tool, or are they just preventing everyone else from becoming as good as they are by withholding information? We can say that they are not literally a monopoly, but if their Search tool is by far the most popular currently, then all of that information is being monopolized by them, and they definitely could be using it to exterminate competition.
So, we have a crossroad here: is Google the best one because they actually have the best quality? Or are they becoming the best ones just by keeping everyone else down? Could anyone else up their game to actually compete, or is Google absolutely in control of that situation?
Hopefully, all of these answers will be given by Italy’s court before November, because probably none of us will actually have them any time before that. So, to conclude, I believe it’s important to highlight that I’m not, in any way, against Google. I’m even writing this article in Google Docs! If a tool is as good as they are, then how could we not choose it over any other? All I’m saying is information is power and, in order to stay as little naive as possible, we must consider all of these facts before we assure with 100% confidence that Google is where they are for purely good, legal, and quantifiable reasons.
Mora is a PPC Analyst at Hellbent Digital at work, and a theater nerd when not at work. And it turns out understanding theater—that is, how to put on compelling live shows that engage the audience—is a very useful skill for understanding digital marketing.