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Google: Spin out DoubleClick?

Ben Legg
Former COO of Google, Europe

Learning outcomes

  • The potential impact of splitting up Google and DoubleClick

Executive Bio

Ben Legg

Former COO of Google, Europe

Ben is an engineer by training and spent over 10 years in the Royal Engineers in the British Army career before moving to McKinsey. In 2002, he moved to Coca-Cola where he ran teams across Eastern Europe before turning around the Indian business leading 12,000 salespeople. Ben then moved to Google where was COO of UK and Ireland for 2 years before being promoted to COO Europe where he was responsible for writing the monetisation blueprint of Google’s various properties. This involved defining the role of ad units, properties, interactions with agencies and partners, and devising how auctions should work. Ben then ran a Yellow Pages turnaround before running an ad-tech business for 6 years which ran $200m of ad spend through the major technology platforms. Ben is the author of Marketing for CEO’s and is on the Board of The Oxford Foundry where he is a mentor and investor to multiple startups. Read more

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Interview Transcript

One argument I think is interesting is spinning out Double Click because they do own the ad ecosystem. The argument is that it’s anti-competitive. Do you buy into that?

I don’t really buy into that. If Double-Click left Google, what is it? Just another demand-side advertising platform. Very quickly, the power of Double Click would go down to the other demand-side platforms. Its power sits with Google because Google owns the data. Double Click without Google is just an ads platform, another ad tech company. Maybe in the early stages, it would be more powerful, but very quickly, it would become just another player in the ecosystem. Google would still see data on who’s searching for what, who’s watching what video, who’s using maps for what purpose. Double Click would just become another ad serving and ad-buying platform.

Do you think search should be a regulated utility in this day and age?

I don’t think it should. For starters, utilities are national. Let’s say the US government bought Google — does the rest of the world want their search run by the US government? It’s tricky. There isn’t a world government, and arguably, the UN is losing its power with populist leaders around the world. I’m not sure that helps. Will they end up being regulated a bit like utilities? Maybe. You have to store data like this. You have to do this. You have certain duties to consumers along these lines. That might happen, but I don’t think they would be publicly owned.

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