The week after Cannes is normally a time for introspection, as the hangover from hell finally starts to clear and the amount of expenses you need to sift through seems like it will never end.
However, this week something rather big happened – Google was fined a record €2.4bn by the EU over prioritising its search engine results to favour its own comparison shopping service.
The EU judged that the company had abused its position of dominance of the search engine market by artificially and illegally promoting its own price comparison service in searches. It now has 90 days to stop its illegal activities and clearly explain how it will reform its ways or face fines of up to €10.6m a day (equating to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of its parent company Alphabet).
It’s been a tough year for Google. Caught up in the fake news fiasco, and called out and scrutinised by the Times’ investigation into brands funding terror, the company now has another, and potentially much more costly crisis to navigate.
Ultimately all three crises link back to trust, especially advertiser trust, which Google depends on to survive. In an effort to ease concerns, the company has demonetised YouTube content – unfairly some YouTubers would have you believe, as well as setting a series of stringent measures to ensure brand safety.
It sounds like the company is making moves forward, but there is still scandal in the air. The EU has ongoing investigations into two further cases of where the company is alleged to have abused its power. The first cases involve the Android operating system, where the commission is concerned that Google has “stifled choice and innovation” in a range of mobile apps and services by “pursuing an overall strategy on mobile devices to protect and expand its dominant position in general internet search”.
In a second investigation into AdSense, a Google service that allows websites to run targeted ads, the commission is concerned that Google has reduced choice by preventing sites from sourcing search ads from competitors.
It will not be a pleasant few months for Google. Whilst the full implications of the above are yet to be seen, Google will ultimately fear that more advertisers follow Havas and the UK Government’s move and halt advertising on its various platforms (including YouTube) until it solves the various issues it has recently been plagued with.
Google has deep enough pockets and a resilient enough business to cope – it’s certainly not going anywhere. But, with the complex web of regulation the business must adhere to on both sides of the Atlantic, there will undoubtedly by calls for increased transparency into how the company manages its affairs and treats its advertisers.
It’s going to be an interesting few months for the advertising industry and I for one and excited to see the next string of revelations in the next few months and see how the industry adapts.