Courts/First Amendment

CHC brief questions FTC ad market definition in IQVIA merger challenge

WASHINGTON, DC – The Coalition for Healthcare Communication (CHC) has filed a federal court amicus brief that raises concerns about how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defined the “programmatic advertising” marketplace in its complaint against IQVIA’s proposed merger with Propel Media and offered its real-world insight into the industry, which span the entire digital “ad tech stack” and include both buyers and sellers of digital ads.

In July, the FTC issued an administrative complaint in federal court to block IQVIA from acquiring Propel Media alleging that the proposed acquisition would give the company a market-leading position in programmatic advertising for health care products, namely prescription drugs to health care professionals.

From the FTC’s complaint, which is significantly redacted to the public, CHC questioned the agency’s narrow and antiquated view that Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) alone “provide programmatic advertising” to advertisers. The brief argues that it is important to identify and contextualize the role in which other entities — including publishers, ad servers, and the ad exchanges — play in facilitating the sale of advertising space to healthcare brands, noting that the FTC’s complaint makes little mention of these entities, nor does it explain how they interact to make programmatic advertising functional.

The CHC urged the court to reject the overly narrow view of “programmatic advertising” advanced by the FTC. Instead, in resolving this case, CHC asks that the court to bear in mind the widely acknowledged industry reality that DSPs, firms such as Lasso and DeepIntent, operate within the ad tech stack and that a broader set of entities and functions — ad servers and ad exchanges, in addition to DSPs — each plays a role in bringing the ultimate buyers and sellers of programmatic advertising together.

The brief was developed in collaboration with CHC and 4A’s, and filed by Sidley Austin, LLP with attorneys from its New York and Washington, DC offices.

About the CHC: Founded in 1993, the Coalition of Healthcare Communication (a subsidiary of 4A’s) promotes the free exchange of accurate, credible, and scientifically sound healthcare information. The CHC represents medical marketing and advertising firms, print and digital publishers, and medical communications providers. The CHC works to ensure that healthcare communicators have a seat at the table when important decisions are being made impacting the free flow of important and truthful healthcare communications.

About Sidley Austin, LLP:

Sidley is an elite global law firm. With 2,300 lawyers, annual revenue of US$3 billion, and experience that spans 157 years, we have established a reputation using Built to Win℠ legal strategies in successfully representing clients in more than 70 countries on complex transactional, investigation, regulatory, and litigation matters.

With 21 offices strategically situated in key commercial and financial hubs throughout the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific, our perspective and our reach are truly global. Our lawyers and business professionals, fluent in more than 80 languages, possess the cultural awareness and cross-border legal acumen needed to bring clarity to a dynamic business landscape.

For further information, please contact Jim Potter, CHC Executive Director,