Google has used a secret program called “Project Bernanke” for years. to increase the chances of its customers to win auctions for competitive advertising space, the the Wall Street newspaper reported on Saturday, citing court documents filed in the Texas-led antitrust action against Google. The state argues that the program gave Google an unfair competitive advantage over competing ad buying tools and allowed it to pay publishers less for winning auctions.
Ironically, the company spilled the beans on its own secret agenda. The Journal claims that the court documents in question – which have been reviewed by the outlet, although Google has since re-sealed them –were dropped by Google earlier this week in response to the Texas lawsuit and were not properly redacted when uploaded to the court’s public registry. Google acknowledged the existence of the Bernanke project in its response.
For anyone unfamiliar with the complex world of digital advertising, here’s a very basic breakdown. Publishers, or the technical name of any website that serves ads, sell advertising space on their website. Advertisers place bids for a particular ad space on ad exchanges, which are like auction houses where whoever offers the highest price wins the coveted ad space. You can find a more detailed and technical explanation here.
Now back to Google. In court documents, Google explains that Project Bernanke used data from historical auctions made through Google Ads to adjust the customer, which refers to advertisers working with Google and paying to do so.bid there and tip the scales in their favor in advertising auctions, according to the Journal. These efforts increased the chances of Google’s customers winning auctions that would otherwise have been won by competing advertising tools and also put millions of dollars in revenue into Google’s pockets.
Google did not notify publishers who were selling ads through its ad buying systems on the existence of the Bernanke project.
The exact number of Google’s millions made from the Bernanke project is not mentioned in the Journal report. However, Google has confirmed that the project is expected to generate $ 230 million in revenue in 2013.
According to the Journal, in the repository Google has denied that there is anything wrong with using the proprietary information it has to notify its customer offers. The company said this was “comparable to data held by other shopping tools.”
The reveal of the Bernanke Project will inevitably lead to increased scrutiny from Google, which has a strong hold on both the seller’s and the buyer’s side of the digital advertising market with its products. At an antitrust meeting of the House Judiciary Committee on Big Tech in the summer of 2020, lawmakers cited a study which revealed that Google controls between 50-60% of the publisher market, or the players who sell their ad space, and 50-90% on the advertiser’s side, referring to those who buy that ad space. the the majority of Google’s revenue comes from its advertising activity.
In fact, Google’s dominance in the digital ad market is the subject of the Texas antitrust lawsuit. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who also has his own legal issues, is alleging that Google has repeatedly abused its monopoly power to control ad pricing and rig ad auctions. This behavior, says Paxton, allows Google to “profit permanently illegally by taking money from these web pages and putting it in its own pockets.”
“In this advertising monopoly in an electronically traded marketplace, Google is essentially exchanging ‘inside information’ by playing the role of pitcher, catcher, batsman and umpire, all at the same time,” Paxton said in a commentary. declaration in December. “It’s not the ‘free market’ at work here. This is anti-market and illegal under state and federal laws. “
Documents also shed light on Google Jedi Blue deal with Facebook, the deal in which Facebook delayed entering the header auction business and instead routes that advertising activity through Google’s advertising platform. The Journal said under the deal, Facebook was required to spend $ 500 million or more on Google’s Ad Manager or AdMob auctions in the deal’s fourth year, among other details.
Gizmodo reached out to Google for comment Sunday on the Journal’s report, but did not receive a response when it was published. We will be sure to update this blog if we get back to you.
In a statement to the Journal, Google spokesperson Peter Schottenfels said the complaint “distorts many aspects of our ad technology business. We are eager to take our case to court. “