Ad Agencies Press DOJ to Approve Microsoft-Yahoo Deal

Ad agencies want their Micro-Hoo, and they want it now.

In a joint statement from the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) to the Department of Justice, four CEOs representing the top agency holding companies today asked regulators to approve the proposed search tie-up between Yahoo and Microsoft.

“We believe that Yahoo and Microsoft’s proposal to combine their technologies and search platforms is good for advertisers, marketing services agencies, website publishers and consumers,” the letter states. “As leading members of the advertising and marketing services industry, we urge the Department of Justice to bring its antitrust review to a speedy conclusion.”

The missive is signed by Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe; Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP; Michael Roth, chairman and CEO of Interpubic Group; John Wren, president and CEO of Omnicom Group; and 4A’s CEO Nancy Hill.

It’s unclear what impact the letter might have on the DOJ’s investigation. But it does lend Yahoo and Microsoft a degree of customer support far greater than what Google and Yahoo could drum up when they made their own search ad agreement. Back then industry favor went the other way. In a letter to the DOJ sent in September 2008, the Association of National Advertisers came out against that arrangement. The deal was scuttled in November, after several associations opposed it publicly and the DOJ threatened a lawsuit.

Reached this afternoon, ANA CEO Bob Liodice told ClickZ the association has been in touch with the DOJ about Microsoft and Yahoo’s proposed deal, and has raised no objections to it.

“At worst we’re neutral, and at best it could create a more competitive environment,” he said.

The 4A’s letter today clearly is meant to convey that the Microsoft/Yahoo deal raises no antitrust concerns. “This proposal enhances competition, and should be allowed to take effect as soon as possible,” it said.

It’s been three months since Yahoo and Microsoft agreed to make Bing the default provider of algorithmic and paid search services on Yahoo sites for a period of 10 years. If approved, the deal will combine the No. 2 and No. 3 players in search to create a contender with roughly 30 percent of the search market, compared to Google’s approximately 65 percent.

Early last month, the Department of Justice reportedly asked Microsoft and Yahoo for more documentation related to their Internet advertising and search alliance. Spokespeople for Microsoft and Yahoo told Reuters they were cooperating with the request.

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