Google Continues to Court Advertisers in Face of Antitrust Suit

Small businesses have new tools for products some allege are anticompetitive

Google could get hit with an antitrust suit as soon as next week. Trent Joaquin/iStock/Google
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While Google faces a reportedly imminent antitrust case, the company is rolling out more products to attract advertisers from businesses of all sizes.

The U.S. Department of Justice and states’ attorneys general are reportedly set to file suit against Google alleging monopolistic practices by next week, according to Politico. At the same time, Google is introducing new and updated products to woo marketers.

One new product announced today is Performance Max campaigns, a beta offering that brings more automation to buying inventory across Google Ads.

Performance Max will let advertisers optimize campaigns based on driving leads, like phone call goals. It will also tell advertisers which combination of audience and creative assets perform best together.

Self-serve platforms and automation tend to attract small businesses with limited resources to manage ad campaigns. Brian Wieser, global president of business intelligence at GroupM, said Google has always catered to small businesses, and incrementally improving products is par for the course.

“It’s always a good idea to keep in mind the political environment, but on the other hand, so much is just normal operations,” Wieser said.

Performance Max campaigns complement Search campaigns, according to a Google blog post. Google is also introducing a new Insights page to Google Ads that surfaces current and emerging search trends to provide businesses with a look at potential customers.

However, the impending suit against Google will reportedly focus on the company’s dominant position in search, which allegedly disadvantages other companies and consumers.

Gary Kibel, partner at Davis and Gilbert LLP, said there’s a struggle to balance protecting consumer privacy with reigning in big platforms like Google.

“Products from the major portals tend to be successful because they’ve got access to fantastic first-party data,” Kibel said. “And first-party data is, in the current legal environment, at times easier to use than third-party data, and that pushes more business to the large portals and makes their businesses more dominant, which then brings the antitrust issues more to the forefront.”

In September, Google introduced pandemic-related updates to its local ad products, which give small businesses the ability to add details like “dine-in” and “in-store shopping” to their campaigns.

Jason Spero, vp of performance and programmatic at Google, told Adweek at the time that the company sees “enormous opportunity” in local ads, an area in which Google traditionally hasn’t played.

According to Google, the recent product announcements “aim to help businesses of all sizes recover and bounce back through providing more insights.”

A statement from the company reads: “These updates are part of our ongoing focus on providing free services that help consumers, support millions of businesses, and enable increased choice and competition.”

Google and other Big Tech companies also used small businesses as cover in the face of regulatory scrutiny. During July’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, Alpahabet CEO Sundar Pichai, fielding questions about Google’s allegedly anticompetitive practices, pointed to the 1.4 million businesses its platforms support.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made similar statements, claiming his company’s platform “gives small businesses and individual entrepreneurs access to sophisticated tools that previously only the largest players had.”

@andrewblustein Andrew Blustein is a programmatic reporter at Adweek.