Google’s Big Ad Shakeup Showcases its AI and Analytics Strengths

In many ways, the overhaul that Alphabet/Google (GOOGL) just unveiled for its ad empire is about making better use of Google’s very valuable brand.

But a look at the details of the shakeup shows that Google is also trying harder to make its ad offerings play nice with each other, as it contends with tough competition from independent ad software and services firms. And it also points to an interest in making greater use of analytics/measurement tools and machine learning algorithms to differentiate its ad products.

Google’s overhaul, unveiled on Tuesday evening, will serve to kill off its AdWords and DoubleClick brands, albeit not the products covered by them. Those products will now be placed within one of three product families:

  1. Google Ads. It covers the company’s former AdWords services for buying search, video and other ads, both on Google and third-party properties. It will also cover Smart Campaigns, a solution that uses machine learning to help small businesses quickly launch ad campaigns tailored to specific goals (e.g., driving online sales or store visits, or getting potential customers to call).
  2. Google Marketing Platform. It covers various DoubleClick products meant to help advertisers and ad agencies for planning and running ad campaigns, as well as the Google Analytics 360 suite of tools for tracking website, customer and marketing data. Within Marketing Platform, a new solution called Display Video 360 fuses together several standalone DoubleClick products, with the goal of helping firms more easily launch and run display and video ad campaigns.
  3. Google Ad Manager. It pairs two popular offerings for third-party web publishers, the DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) ad server and the DoubleClick Ad Exchange (AdX).

Some Google ad platforms won’t be going inside these product families. These include the AdSense platform for showing ads on third-party sites (it customer base skews towards smaller publishers), and the AdMob mobile ad network. But the lion’s share of Google’s ad-related revenue is covered by them.

Google suggests that ditching the AdWords brand has much to do with the fact that AdWords, which was once merely the name for Google’s search text ad business, had come to also cover a lot of non-search businesses. And ditching the DoubleClick brand makes sense when Google is believed to have the world’s second-most valuable brand and (along with Facebook (FB) ) is seen as one half of an unstoppable online ad duopoly.

Fully integrating Google Analytics 360 with DoubleClick’s advertiser-focused offerings is also a pretty notable move, given how popular Analytics 360 is for tracking the activity of current and potential customers. Making it easier for different marketing/ad teams to collaborate could be a useful selling point as Google battles marketing software rivals such as Adobe (ADBE)  and Oracle (ORCL) , both of which have been eager to use MA to expand their offerings for marketers.

Web publishers, meanwhile, could find value in tighter integration between DFP and AdX. Google argues traditional distinctions between an ad server solution and an ad exchange matter less when the ads delivered by a server are coming via programmatic (software-automated) ad buys run through exchanges, rather than direct sales to advertisers.

“We are bringing the technologies together, so one unified sales team can work with one unified ad manager tool,” Google exec Jonathan Bellack was quoted as telling industry site AdExchanger. That could help Google better contend with ad tech rivals such as AppNexus, which runs a popular ad exchange (many large publishers are clients) and is selling to ATT (T) for a reported $1.6 billion.

The launch of Smart Campaigns is also noteworthy. They add to Google’s existing efforts — see its Smart Bidding solution for search and display ads — to use machine learning to make ad campaigns easier and more effective, and also further Google’s efforts to grow its sales to small businesses. Thanks to both their targeting abilities and the convenience of their self-serve tools, Google and Facebook have each become vital customer acquisition and retention channels for legions of small businesses.

Google is coming off a Q1 during which its ad revenue (excluding revenue-sharing payments) rose 21% annually to $20.4 billion on the back of strong mobile search and YouTube ad growth. Its ad product overhaul should help keep those two growth engines humming along, and perhaps also provide a lift to other ad businesses that have been facing stiffer competition.

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