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Digital platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are powerful firms, which benefit from having substantial resources and central positions in online industries. Although they are capable of defending their interests autonomously, they still get involved in and fund collective initiatives such as meta-organizations (MOs – i.e., organizations that have organizations as their members), particularly in the online advertising sector. In this article, which is based on an in-depth qualitative case study, we analyze what digital platforms gain from being members of MOs and, reciprocally, what the MOs gain from having these actors as members. We also investigate how these platforms act as MO members, paying attention to the existing literature on MOs. We focus on the Coalition for Better Ads MO, a collective initiative aiming to counter the rise of online ad-blocking. We show that digital platforms that operate in the online advertising market and as web browsers make a significant contribution to the MO. To this end, the MO delegates several organizational elements (i.e., monitoring and sanctioning) to these firms. This delegation reinforces the position of these members and helps them to change the organization of the whole market to their advantage as they control the advertising features (i.e., formats) of their rivals (publishers). The MO gains in credibility and efficiency, but, reciprocally, the MO gives legitimacy to the actions of the platforms, thereby reducing the risk of conflict with stakeholders.
Keywords: Meta-organizations; Digital platforms; Market organization; Online advertising; ad-blocking Handling editor: Michael Grothe-Hammer;