TechCrunch Claims of Google Kickbacks to Publicis Are “Crock of …”: SVP of Publicis Co.

Accusations of kickbacks from the estimated $1 billion ad spend Publicis sends Google were reported by TechCrunch earlier today. The spends come through demand side platforms – an emerging digital technology whose features “include advanced and accurate audience targeting capabilities, easy-to-use inventory control and bidding dashboards, and the ability to set frequency caps on the ads being served,” ClickZ explained.

A TechCrunch source at Publicis requesting anonymity “estimates that in 2010 Publicis will run $1 billion in advertising through Google, a figure Unkel (SVP at Vivaki – the digital arm of Publicis) does not dispute. Most of that is still search advertising, but about $200 million is display, according to the employee, and that portion is growing quickly”.

“There isn’t a rebate in play. We have a strategic partnership,” says Unkel TechCrunch noted. “Any suggestion that Publicis is accepting payments from Google in return for driving online ad spending through Google is “an utter crock of shit,” he says”.

Unkel also said such behavior would be illegal.

“Direct rebates would be a big no-no and could raise antitrust concerns. It would mean that Google is essentially buying market share in display advertising,” TechCrunch explained.

Adotas, calling the TechCrunch claims baseless, said Publicis’ Vivaki “buys through the DoubleClick Ad Exchange as well as the RMX — a good DSP or trading desk will have access to all the major exchanges. Vivaki’s big crime seems to be not informing clients that its Audience on Demand DSP tech is based on the stuff Google inherited in the Invite Media acquisition”.

They stated the company was merely taking advantage of white label technology of Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

Profiting from ad sales through the platform is not illegal per se – how and for what the payments are for are the determining factor. There will be more discussion of this as Google continues to grow its share of this market no doubt.

“What’s interesting about Publicis’ vehement denials is that when the pact was struck in 2008, some people assumed that sweeteners from Google were the only reason the pair got into bed together in the first place…. Google frames those payments as investments in training and in a trading platform at VivaKi, Publicis’ digital advertising network which includes Razorfish, Digitas and Publicis’ media-buying agencies. Clients have no idea that they’re paying Publicis to run ads on Google — it could be cheaper or at least quicker to buy them from Google directly…. The key to understanding why this might be illegal is to realize that it is the advertising clients’ money that is generating all these discounts, payments, rebates and such. Yet somehow the benefit of them is allegedly accruing to Publicis and its VivaKi unit, and not the clients who paid for them,” – part of the CBS Interactive Business Network stated.

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