DOJ Rejects Google’s Antitrust Concessions; Instacart+ Plugs Into The Retail Media Network Network

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No Compromise For Google

Google’s reported offer to US regulators as a bid to avoid an antitrust suit was to spin off part of its ad business. But that news apparently landed with a thud. 

The Department of Justice is poised to move forward with an antitrust lawsuit against Google parent company Alphabet within the next few weeks, Bloomberg reports.

The DOJ’s antitrust division has been looking into Google’s ad tech business since 2019, and that investigation was recently kicked into overdrive by Doha Mekki, the division’s second-highest-ranking official.

The DOJ declined to comment on the investigation or any settlement offers that may have been made by Google. But the department is committed to trying antitrust cases in court, particularly cases targeting monopolies, according to assistant attorney general for antitrust Jonathan Kanter.

But the task of pushing the Google probe forward will likely fall to Mekki. Kanter will probably recuse himself from the case because of his past work as legal counsel for Google opponents, including Microsoft, News Corp and Yelp. At an event in April, Mekki said about the division’s case approach: “We are not planning to take settlements. Settlements suggest compromise.”

The Retail Network To Get Work

Last month, Instacart launched a subscription program called (I’m sorry you have to see this symbol again) … Instacart+. 

It’s not a streaming service but a membership program with a monthly rate that Instacart hopes will leapfrog the company into broader commerce, not just groceries. 

Some retail partners for Instacart+ include Best Buy, Lowe’s and Sephora, Digiday reports, as well as stores as disparate as Dollar General, AutoZone, Macy’s, Michael’s and Petco. 

Instacart’s strategy is boosted by these retailers, including those building their own online ad businesses. 

Why does Instacart+ benefit if retailers launch programmatic ad sales? 

Because the retailers traffic ads across each other’s networks and third-party pipes with reliable audience matching. 

Pinterest, for instance, is a supply partner for retailer-owned ad networks that buy inventory around the web on behalf of brands they carry. 

“It makes for an interesting pass through, if you will. In some cases, we know who the advertiser is; in some cases, we don’t,” Pinterest SVP Jeremy King, the former Walmart Commerce CTO, told AdExchanger last week.

Retailers will be thrilled to plug Instacart into the same messy programmatic switchboards, if it can deliver sales.

Rethink The China Lesson

It’s easy to believe that social shopping must take off in America eventually. But who’s buying? 

Facebook subsidizes ad traffic to Shops; advertisers aren’t interested. Google Shopping. Thud. Amazon influencers. Who? 

TikTok is the wunderkind, but it still shelved its live shopping launch in the UK before even rolling out to the US. 

China is held up as the example of how social commerce can and will grow. But should it be?

Take the New Oriental Education & Technology Group, a multibillion Chinese tutoring and education company crushed by the government’s recent crackdown on for-profit education companies. New Oriental language tutors repurposed their virtual classes as fresh produce and grocery sales sessions, rather than paid-for English lessons, using Douyin (the Chinese TikTok app owned by the same parent company ByteDance), The Wall Street Journal reports. They sell produce because the government is pushing suppliers to increase rural ecommerce food deliveries. 

New Oriental’s social sellers also benefit because the Douyin influencer who formerly sold the most, Li Jiaqi, hasn’t posted online since June 3, the eve of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, when he promoted a tank-shaped ice cream cake. 

If you’re banking on social commerce adoption … don’t lean on the Chinese example. 

But Wait, There’s More!

Amazon offers to limit use of merchant data in bid to settle EU antitrust probe. [TechCrunch]

Ukraine says Big Tech has dropped the ball on Russian propaganda. [WaPo]

2022 Blockthrough/PageFair Adblock report. [release]

CTV and OTT advertisers plan to increase spending by 22% this year. [B&C]

Meta will start letting some Facebook users create up to five distinct profiles. [Bloomberg]

You’re Hired!

FreeWheel names Katy Loria as its new US chief revenue officer. [release]

Havas appoints new CEO of Havas Creative. [Ad Age]

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