Ad tech inquiry begins
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Ad tech inquiry begins: ACCC seeks feedback on ad tech and ad agency services

Australia’s inquiry into the digital advertising technology supply chain and advertising agency services has begun, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) calling for feedback and information about ad tech systems and processes.

To complete the ad tech inquiry, the ACCC said that views are sought from all companies who buy digital display advertising, ranging from small businesses to global brands, as well as from advertising and media agencies, social media platforms, website owners, app developers, and ad tech services companies.

The watchdog has released an issues paper for the Ad Tech Inquiry along with fact sheets of key questions for advertisers and ad hosts. 

Submissions to the issues paper are due by 21 April.

“This inquiry will allow the ACCC to assess whether these advertising and ad tech markets are operating effectively and, importantly, gauge whether they are working well for a range of different stakeholders,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“We strongly encourage all interested parties to make sure their views are heard.”

The ACCC wants feedback on the competitiveness, efficiency, transparency and effectiveness of ad tech services and ad agency services. The key issues to be explored in this inquiry include:

  • whether market participants have enough information (including about pricing, rebates and revenue flows) to make informed choices about the use of ad agency and ad tech services;
  • competition throughout the ad tech supply chain and in the supply of ad agency services;
  • the role and use of data in supplying these services; and,
  • whether competition and efficiency are being affected by supplier behaviour, including vertically integrated suppliers preferencing their own services, or by ad tech services businesses or ad agencies not acting in the best interests of their clients.

Interested parties are encouraged to provide information on the issues that are most relevant to their experiences and are not expected to address every question in the Issues Paper.

“During our Digital Platforms Inquiry, we heard many concerns about the complexity and opacity of ad tech and ad agency services. This has real potential to undermine advertisers’ abilities to choose services that provide the best value for money for them,” Sims said.

“It may also prevent the companies that host those ads from maximising their advertising revenue.”

ACCC Chair Rod Sims

“Higher prices for advertisers means higher prices for consumers. And lower revenues for ad hosts could in the longer term lead to a reduction in the quality and diversity of online content.”

The ACCC will also use its compulsory information-gathering powers to access information from market participants that is not publicly available.

“What an inquiry offers the ACCC is information gathering powers that mean companies are legally obliged to provide us with the detailed information to go deep on these issues. We believe that online display advertising practices certainly warrant some digging,” Sims said.

This inquiry is being conducted by the ACCC’s new Digital Platforms Branch, and will build on the findings of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry, which delivered its final report in July 2019.

The ACCC is required to provide a preliminary report to the Treasurer by 31 December 2020 and a final report by 31 August 2021.

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