According to IAB Europe's recent estimates, gross digital advertising expenditure in Europe totalled €48 billion in 2017, up 13.2% from €42.5 billion in 2016.
In the twelve years between 2006 and 2017, the market grew by €41.3 billion, and it has doubled in size over the past 5 years.
These numbers are huge, however they include all advertising means: from video to tracking tools, from web banners to social ads. From an anti-trust perspective, these can all be relevant markets worthy of an investigation.
Such market is currently dominated by adtech firms, which control the distribution of ad slots supplied by publishers through the so-called ad exchange platforms.
The Commission is currently busy looking into another probe against Google and concerning its AdSense advertising service, however this is a completely different matter according to the proponents of the inquiry to EU authorities.
In particular, they raise concerns over three main issues: (i) the cross-usage of data by dominant adtech firms that creates barriers to entry; (ii) the monopsony and practices that disadvantage sellers (publishers) in collecting ads money; and (iii) possible consumer harm relevant to choice reduction and hidden influence of behaviours by using programmatic.
This is a tough call for the EU Commission, although not answered yet.
In fact, it will be interesting to see how and if a possible investigation will affect the Large technology corporates on the Continent, some of which account for more than 71 percent of the entire European online ads market.
Despite online advertising’s size and importance, it is an opaque market that may be distorted by severe concentration issues, and perhaps by anti-competitive behavior.