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IAB Australia and ADMA respond to the ACCC’s Ad Tech Inquiry Final Report

With the release of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Ad Tech Inquiry Final Report on Tuesday, which identified significant competition concerns and likely harms to publishers, advertisers and consumers the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Australia and the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) has released responses to the inquiry.

The report concluded that enforcement action under Australia’s existing competition laws alone is not sufficient to address the competition issues in the sector, and that the ACCC should be given powers to develop specific rules in response.

IAB Australia’s CEO, Gai Le Roy, responded to the inquiry, telling Mumbrella: “Ad funded digital media and services, supported by the ad tech sector, perform a critical role in the digital economy. The ACCC’s detailed Digital Advertising Services Inquiry Report has implications for many aspects of the ad tech sector and the IAB looks forward to working constructively on behalf of the industry with Government on the key issues it raises and to continue to build confidence across the ad tech ecosystem.

Le Roy added: “The digital advertising industry is focused on ensuring advertising technologies prioritise consumer privacy and accountability in the development of targeting, measurement, and attribution solutions. We recognise the critical importance of transparency across the Australian ad tech supply chain and are actively working to develop measures that work for advertisers and publishers, as well as consumers.”

ADMA, head of regulatory and advocacy, Sarla Fernando, commented: “The ad tech industry is a necessary stimulant to the entire Australian digital economy, be that consumers, advertisers and publishers. It’s important that we do what we can to keep competitive and protect the consumer. ADMA advocates for responsible marketing that is fair and transparent, fostering consumer trust, healthy competition and innovation. Whilst the size of the players can sometimes give the perception that their power and skill leads to misuse, we do not believe this is automatically so.”

Fernando explained that: “ADMA advocates for an industry where that power and skill does not lead to anti-competitive behaviour. Consumer trust is paramount to a healthy industry and currently this is being eroded. This enquiry has given all of us an opportunity to reset. The ACCC’s recommendations when addressing systemic change gives the industry an opportunity to work together in order to foster a more transparent and responsible environment. This will keep the Australian digital economy accessible and buoyant for all.

“Regulatory change shouldn’t just be focused on today’s problem, rather go to the route of the issue. The regluatory framework must address systemic concerns and be drafted in a way that cannot be out-manouvered by any one player. That will always lead to a disadvantage to smaller players that they will find difficult to overcome,” Fernando concluded.

On Tuesday, the ACCC said ad tech services facilitate complex transactions for the selling and buying of advertising space on websites or apps, resulting in the ads that are displayed to consumers.

Earlier this month, Google denied that use of its ad tech platforms provides brands with an unfair advantage over the competition thanks to the large amount of data it has from its users.

A Google spokesperson told Mumbrella: “Google’s digital advertising technology services are delivering benefits for businesses and consumers – helping publishers fund their content, enabling small businesses to reach customers and grow, and protecting people online from bad ad practices.”

The report found that Google has a dominant position in key parts of the ad tech supply chain and estimates that more than 90% of ad impressions traded via the ad tech supply chain passed through at least one Google service in 2020.

Google’s dominance in the ad tech supply chain is underpinned by multiple factors including its access to consumer and other data, access to exclusive inventory and integration across its ad tech services. Key acquisitions by Google, including of DoubleClick in 2007, AdMob in 2009, as well as YouTube in 2006 have helped Google entrench its position in ad tech.

“Google has used its vertically integrated position to operate its ad tech services in a way that has, over time, led to a less competitive ad tech industry. This conduct has helped Google to establish and entrench its dominant position in the ad tech supply chain,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

That report will also look at whether the proposed rules for ad tech need to form part of a broader regulatory scheme to address common competition and consumer concerns we have identified in digital platform markets. Consultation on that report will commence in the first quarter of 2022 and will take into account overseas legislative proposals to deal with these issues.

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