Google controls products that aid in every step of that process, including the different pieces of software for advertisers and publishers that run auctions for ad space. Because publishers sometimes post their open ad space to multiple digital ad companies — including Google’s — the companies can compete with one another to see who can obtain the most money from an advertiser to use the slot.
Google’s critics say it has achieved a level of dominance in the ad tech market that makes fair competition impossible. They argue that Google has, in the past, been able to position itself as the final bidder against other ad tech providers, essentially giving its services an unfair advantage. And they say the company can now use its immense trove of data to get a leg up on other platforms, potentially allowing it to charge prices that are not competitive.
In the paper filed in Australia, Daniel Bitton, a partner at the law firm Axinn, Veltrop and Harkrider, which has represented Google for years in antitrust cases, and Stephen Lewis, an economic consultant, take on many of those criticisms.
The two argue that the company competes with a wide array of firms to run the market for ad space, including Amazon and lesser-known players like the Trade Desk. (Only one other company listed on a chart produced by the Google advisers also owns products servicing every part of the ad buying process: AT&T.)
Mr. Bitton and Mr. Lewis note that Google’s systems work with other companies’ products. And they argue that Google’s products have made the process of buying ads more efficient or offered strong alternatives for buyers and sellers. They denied that the company’s software gave it an inappropriate advantage over its competitors’ bids for ad space — and say the company made changes in recent years that make it impossible for its products to have the guaranteed final bid in an auction.
A Justice Department case could also focus on concerns about Google’s ad tech business beyond what is tackled in the Australia paper, like whether it charges unfair fees to publishers for helping them sell ad space.
“The antitrust laws are about protecting competition, not individual competitors,” Mr. Bitton and Mr. Lewis write. “Trying to protect individual competitors or market participants, when a marketplace is as dynamic as ad tech, carries significant risk of stifling competition and innovation, rather than promoting or protecting it.”