WPP head calls for 'close look' at Google/AdMob deal

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Regulators should carefully probe Google's proposed $750 million acquisition of mobile advertising network AdMob says Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, the world's largest advertising group by sales. "[Regulatory investigation] should be rigorous. Our clients will welcome a close look," Sorrell told Reuters Monday. (WPP holdings include ad agencies the Grey Group, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Young & Rubicam and JWT.) "I don't think in the case of [online advertising firm] DoubleClick it was deep enough and strong enough," Sorrell added. Google acquired DoubleClick for $3.1 billion in 2007--the Federal Trade Commission voted 4-1 in favor of the deal after concluding the agreement was unlikely to undercut competition in the digital ad space.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that both Google and AdMob believe the FTC will block the merger over antitrust concerns. Citing multiple sources close to the situation, the Journal notes that the absence of a clear direction of inquiry by FTC investigators bodes badly for the proposed acquisition, adding the agency could request a preliminary injunction to halt the transaction sometime this week. Word of the FTC's investigation into the deal first surfaced early last month after the agency sent letters to AdMob's competitors requesting sworn statements about the potential impact of the acquisition.

Around the same time, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on antitrust, sent a letter to the FTC urging the agency to carefully scrutinize the AdMob acquisition and arguing that it "raises important competition issues." Public interest groups and rivals like Microsoft are also lobbying the FTC to halt the deal.

For more on Sorrell's comments:
- read this Reuters article

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