Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers

Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers

Google

Google continues to nudge businesses away from using third-party cookies to personalize ads and toward the management of first-party data. On March 11, Google announced some product developments intended to make it easier for publishers to use their first-party data programmatically for ad buys. Let’s take a closer look.

What Google Announced

Google is going to help publishers expand the use of Publisher Provided Identifiers (PPIDs) in Ad Manager to more programmatic campaign types, including the Open Auction. PPIDs are created from anonymized first-party data and then fed into Google Ad Manager by the publisher. PPIDs improving functions such as audience segmentation and frequency capping. Publishers will now be able to surface their first-party data programmatically for buyers — so long as they use Google as their intermediary.

As AdExchanger explains,

The PPID’s technical setup works like this: the publisher will create a unique ID for users, based on a first-party cookie or a log-in ID. Then it will put that ID into Google Ad Manager, and choose who it wants to share that data with. Google will hash that ID and pass it through to buyers.

Buyers won’t know that PPID 123 is a sports fan in an open auction. But as they observe the ID in bid requests, they may notice that the user ID goes to a sports site frequently, for example, and deduce that a buyer is a good fit for an ad campaign.

Google also said it is experimenting with functionality that will provide publishers with the option to share encrypted data directly with advertisers with whom they already have a direct relationship. Publishers will have full control over what data is collected, and who can receive the data. Google will not be able to read or decrypt the data. Ad Manager will only act as an intermediary on behalf of the publisher to pass the signals to the third-party bidders they choose.

What the News Means

The announcement is another sign of Google’s intention to bring about the demise of third-party cookies and push businesses toward using first-party data to personalize content. Over the past several months, Google has announced that it would stop supporting third-party cookies on its Chrome browser and that Google would reject alternatives to third-party cookie tracking. As an alternative, Google is developing alternatives to third-party cookie tracking in Google’s privacy sandbox. Tellingly, Google also noted in a March 3 blog post:

We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with.

Google’s March 11 post now shows that Google is going to nudge publishers to use their first-party data more effectively.

What Advertisers Should Do

Flexibility and patience are key. Don’t assume targeting and personalization are dead. You can still use your own data to buy targeted ads on Google properties such as YouTube, Gmail, and Google Search – so long as you bring their first-party data into Google through the company’s existing Customer Match product. Customer Match takes information a consumer gave to a brand, such as an email address, and determines whether it matches data Google already has. If so, advertisers can work with Google to send an ad to that individual. Moreover, as we noted in a recent blog post, if you want to use your own data to serve up targeted ads outside Google’s walls, Google is developing its own cohort-based alternative to third-party cookies to help you do that. Stay tuned for more product developments.

Do consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site. Note that brands that have relationships with publishers can pass first-party data directly to those publishers, outside the Google environment, and still manage the buy inside Google’s automated ad-buying system Display & Video 360 (often called DV360). But the use of data and the ad buy will be supported by proposed methods that enhance privacy as discussed in Google’s March 11 blog post.

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

For more reading:

Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking: Advertiser Q&A.”

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome: Advertiser Q&A.”

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking: Advertiser Q&A

Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking: Advertiser Q&A

Google

Google recently made another major announcement in its quest to usher in a cookie-less world. Recall that in January 2020, Google said it was going to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome in a bid to protect consumer privacy more effectively. On March 3, Google published an update: Google will not build alternative tracking technologies (or use those being developed by other companies) for its own ad buying tools to replace third-party cookies. Let’s take a closer look at what Google announced.

What exactly did Google announce?

Google said that once third-party cookies are phased out of Chrome browsers, Google will not build alternative identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will Google use them in its products. Examples of those alternative identifiers include Unified ID and LiveRamp IdentityLink.

Instead, Google wants advertisers to adopt cohort-based targeting, or grouping people based on their common browsing behavior as an alternative to third-party cookies. Specifically, Google is advocating for the adoption of FLoCs (federated learning cohorts) developed out Google’s own Privacy Sandbox initiative. According to Google,

. . . our latest tests of FLoC show one way to effectively take third-party cookies out of the advertising equation and instead hide individuals within large crowds of people with common interests. Chrome intends to make FLoC-based cohorts available for public testing through origin trials with its next release this month, and we expect to begin testing FLoC-based cohorts with advertisers in Google Ads in Q2. Chrome also will offer the first iteration of new user controls in April and will expand on these controls in future releases, as more proposals reach the origin trial stage, and they receive more feedback from end users and the industry.

How will online advertising be affected?

It’s likely that advertisers will still be able to create targeted ads based on user behavior – but the ads will be based on larger cohorts of people based on their common browsing behavior as an alternative to third-party cookies. Google told The Wall Street Journal that ads using cohort-based targeting have performed nearly as well as the existing tools that target consumers individually.

But no one yet knows exactly how targeting will change. As Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communication officer at Mastercard, told The Wall Street Journal, “When you’re able to target precisely to individuals your effectiveness is very high. When you’re doing it to cohorts it’s bound to be lesser than the individual, but we don’t know how much less at this point in time.”

What should advertisers do?

We always recommend that when Google makes a major change to its products that advertisers keep a close watch on their spend and costs especially for any potential near-term fluctuations. (If you are a True Interactive client, we do that for you.) Beyond that, it’s time to wait and see. The worst action to take is to stop advertising on Google. Google remains the Number One digital advertising platform, even if targeting consumer behavior across Google’s universe changes from personal to cohort-based targeting.

Also:

  • Keep an eye on how the Google sandbox initiative evolves especially as Google begins testing FloC with advertisers in the second quarter.
  • Consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). As Google pointed out, “We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with.”
  • Google’s FloC may not be your only alternative, the March 3 announcement notwithstanding. Watch the development initiatives such as Unified ID 2.0, which is a next generation identity solution built on an open-source digital framework. Unified ID 2.0 is the result of a collaboration among publishers, buyers, and technology providers. According to a recent announcement, Unified ID 2.0 serves as an alternative to third-party cookies. Unified ID 2.0 aims to improve consumer transparency, privacy, and control, while preserving the value exchange of relevant advertising across channels and devices. Tom Kershaw, the chief technology officer of Magnite and chairman of Prebid.org — which is the operator of Unified ID 2.0 — dismissed the Google news. He told Campaign that Google’s March 3 announcement has zero effect on Unified ID 2.0. He also said that he was never under an impression that Google would participate in Unified ID 2.0. For more insight, read his newly published commentary on AdExchanger.
  • Consider ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect, which give businesses entrée to a vast base of customers who search and shop on Amazon and Walmart. True Interactive offers services on both platforms in addition to our longstanding work on Google, Bing, and other platforms.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Google to Expand Phrase Match and Drop Broad Match Modifier

Google to Expand Phrase Match and Drop Broad Match Modifier

Google

On February 4, Google announced changes intended to help advertisers reach searchers more efficiently and precisely in context of search intent. Within the next few weeks. Google will expand phrase match to include additional broad match modifier traffic. In addition, Google will end support for broad match modifier. As a result, Google says that advertising on Google will become more relevant to search behavior.

In a blog post, Google explained how the expansion of phrase match will work. Google cited the example of a moving service wanting to have its ads appear alongside someone searching for “moving services NYC to Boston.” The way phrase match works now, that ad might appear alongside a “moving services NYC to Boston” search – but it also might appear alongside “moving services Boston to NYC” searches, which is obviously an irrelevant ad placement. But this problem will go away over the next few weeks with the expansion of phrase match, as Google depicted on its blog:

Google search query

Google also shared more examples to illustrate how matching behavior will change after this update:

Google Content

Meanwhile, Google is phasing out support for broad match modifier. Google intended for broad match modifier to trigger a business’s ads if keywords were present in the search query in the exact or close variant form.

To minimize disruption, Google will roll out the change over several months. According to Google:

  • Starting mid-February, both phrase match and broad match modifier keywords will begin to transition to the new matching behavior. Advertisers will keep their performance data and will not need to migrate their keywords.
  • In July, once the new behavior has been rolled out globally, advertisers will no longer be able to create new broad match modifier keywords. But, existing broad match modifier keywords will continue to serve under the new behavior – so Google suggests that advertisers start now by create new keywords in phrase match going forward.

What Advertisers Should Do

Google suggests that advertisers:

  • Monitor performance and shift budgets where necessary. Traffic may fluctuate due to these changes; so make adjustments as needed.
  • Regularly check Recommendations page: “Add new keywords” helps an advertiser maintain keyword coverage, and “Remove redundant keywords” helps an advertiser consolidate duplicate keywords.
  • Consider using broad match with Smart Bidding. If an advertiser is concerned about losing coverage, broad match with Smart Bidding helps reach more relevant searches that meet an advertiser’s performance objectives. Google cited the example of online food delivery service Just Eat Takeaway.com, which just tested the combination of broad match with Smart Bidding. The business said, “[W]e’ve been surprised by the results of using broad match with Smart Bidding. We saw a 127% increase in conversions while hitting our goals.”
  • Continue to use negative keywords: Exclude matches an advertiser doesn’t want with negative keywords.

In the near term, advertisers will find themselves busy adapting their campaigns, and they may experience some traffic fluctuations – so it’s best to watch performance metrics closely during the transition.

Of course, if you are a True Interactive client, we’ll do all the heavy lifting for you. We’ve got you covered!

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

Why Procter & Gamble Is Succeeding (Hint: Advertising!)

Why Procter & Gamble Is Succeeding (Hint: Advertising!)

Advertising

Procter & Gamble has exploded analyst predictions for the company’s just-concluded fiscal first quarter. Organic sales are up to $19.3 billion, a jump of nine percent; net earnings have risen 19 percent; and there’s no indication that, as the pandemic grinds on, people are trading down to cheaper products. Why is P&G succeeding? It’s not just because it’s selling the right products at the right time. Read on to learn more about how:

P&G Is Prepared for the Moment

According to statista.com, P&G ranked as one of the Top 5 advertisers in 2019 based on the company’s ad spend. This is important to recognize because, even before COVID-19 was a glimmer on the horizon, the company was keeping in the forefront of consumer’s minds. P&G’s strategy was sound, predicated on the fact that during flu season, people naturally want to stock up on cleaning products. And although the company had no idea a pandemic would soon eclipse the flu in severity, its strategy and preparation mentality, rooted in strong advertising, served P&G well. When COVID-19 hit and consumers rushed to purchase cleaning products, P&G product name awareness was already high.

P&G Never Wavers from Creativity

The company’s advertising isn’t just timely, it’s creative. P&G consistently rolls out innovative, culturally relevant campaigns with digital at the center. For example:

  • During a year when the pandemic has left many older Americans feeling isolated, P&G’s Ivory brand launched an Acts of Gentle Kindness initiative to support and uplift seniors through distribution of “Ivory gentle care packs.” The packs, which included an assortment of Ivory products, cozy accessories like socks, and puzzles/brain games, celebrated World Kindness Day by focusing “on spreading positivity.” For the initiative, Ivory partnered with TV personality Catherine (Giudici) Lowe and Cavanaugh Bell, the seven-year-old Chief Positivity Creator at nonprofit organization Cool & Dope. Both encouraged families to get involved and create care packs for their own communities; the resulting stories could be shared on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest with the hashtag #IvoryKindness.

Woman and Child

  • P&G’s Skinclusive Summer Line by Venus celebrated the many skins we’re in by partnering with the popular Animal Crossing video game series. During a summer when going to the beach wasn’t necessarily a slam dunk due to COVID-19, Animal Crossing became a way to hit the beach virtually. And the game, which is especially popular among women aged 19-24, took self-expression to a new level: Gillette Venus partnered with digital designer Nicole Cuddihy to co-create new “skin-clusive” avatar designs. The game, which originally offered just a few representative skin types for its avatars, now gives players a choice of 250+ designs encompassing 19 different skin types and eight in-game skin tones. Notably, common skin features such as acne, cellulite, vitiligo, and tattoos are represented. Cuddihy notes, “While momentum for diversity in design is building, there are many areas where progress feels slow. The fact that I could add scars and wrinkles to warriors or outlaws, but not characters in less combat-driven games felt discouraging. With these designs, I hope that all women in Animal Crossing can find comfort and representation in this carefully developed collection. I drew inspiration from those in my own life to ensure the designs I was creating accurately represented their skin stories in a way that feels real, celebratory and beautiful.”

Animal Crossing

P&G Is Preparing for the Future

Per Ad Age, P&G does not seem inclined to tighten the purse strings when it comes to marketing: marketing spending for P&G grew at least $100 million last quarter. As Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller said, “We view this as a time to spend forward in terms of our advertising levels, not to spend back. First, there’s never been more media consumed than there is currently, as we all try to entertain ourselves and our families and survive. And two there’s a heightened need to spend on hygiene and health.”

The message is clear: P&G isn’t afraid to invest in advertising. And as we recently blogged, it’s important that all businesses keep their eyes on the ball by maintaining brand awareness with advertising: now, and going forward.

Contact True Interactive

How can your brand benefit from digital advertising? Contact us. We can help.

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Advertising

When COVID-19 first took hold in 2020 and the world entered a time of seismic change and uncertainty, we urged businesses to stay in the ring with a strong digital presence. We wrote, “You don’t want to be caught flat-footed when consumers shift their behaviors again as the current disruption subsides. And subside it will; not knowing when is different from not knowing if.”

As we look to the new year ahead, this truth resonates more strongly than ever. Here’s what you should know about why digital advertising remains important, how digital presence relates to consumer—not to mention competitor—behavior, and what you can do going forward:

Consumer Behavior Has Shifted Online — Have You?

IBM’s U.S. Retail Index indicates that the pandemic has deeply informed the way people shop: the shift from visiting brick-and-mortar stores to shopping online has in fact been accelerated by approximately five years. The types of goods consumers deem essential has come into sharper focus, too. Clothing shopping, for example, has dipped in an era when more people are attending school and working their jobs online. By contrast, sales in categories such as groceries, alcohol, and home improvement materials have all accelerated.

The question to ask yourself: when people go online to shop, will your brand be present with targeted online advertising, such as paid search, that is relevant to what consumers are looking to buy?

Your Competitors Are Connecting with Consumers Online — Are You?

Ad revenues for the Big Three—Amazon, Facebook, and Google—can also shed some light on what a successful path forward can look like for brands. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the Big Three are enjoying a surge of online revenue: Amazon and Google have reported strong quarterly sales, and Facebook has also enjoyed record revenue. All three had a great third quarter, evidence that businesses continue to connect with people, online, on multiple levels, from retail to social media to digital advertising. Even the StopHateFor Profit ad boycott did not seem to take a lasting bite out of Facebook’s advertising revenue, which was up 22 percent in the third quarter as compared to a year ago. (It’s worth noting that changes in consumer habits have manifested themselves not just in terms of venue—e.g., the move online—but timing. As Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos notes, “We’re seeing more customers than ever shopping early for their holiday gifts.”)

Social media ad spend overall is also on the rise. In the third quarter, global social media ad spend increased 56.4 percent. According to The Drum, that’s almost double the average spend recorded during the COVID-19-related spending nadir of late March.

In short, brands that understand where, and when, to connect with consumers will benefit. If you are ignoring trends in online advertising, you are probably falling behind competitors who are speaking to these tendencies. Are you taking the prevailing trends to heart?

What Businesses Should Do

To stay competitive, we recommend that you:

  • Keep focused on digital. That’s where the action is, according to the data.
  • Invest in creative advertising. As more people go online and interact with brands, it’s going to be harder to stand apart from the pack. As we’ve blogged, it’s critical to invest in strong creative—and creative that is consistent across all your touch points.
  • Keep growing as digital tools evolve. An understanding of—and investment in—new technology helps brands communicate that what they have to offer is cutting edge. And that new technology is out there for the taking. For example, Consider Google’s new visual search tools:
    • Google Lens allows shoppers to tap and hold an image in the Google app or Android Chrome browser in order to find it in an online store.
    • AR Autos will soon allow shoppers to look for a vehicle in Google Search, then see it rendered in 3D or augmented reality. The result? A more immersive look at key features before consumers even arrive at a dealer lot. This advance “peek” is particularly beneficial at a time when many shoppers are trying to limit in-person contact during the pandemic.

Google’s offerings are just a taste of the new opportunities out there. The headline is this: staying on top of new technology can help position you for success.

Contact True Interactive

The changes brought by 2020 won’t go away with the flip of a calendar page. Rather, they have invited brands to adapt. Curious as to how digital can elevate your brand in 2021? Contact us.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/apps-blur-button-close-up-267350/

The Google Anti-Trust Lawsuit: Advertiser Q&A

The Google Anti-Trust Lawsuit: Advertiser Q&A

Google

On October 20, the Justice Department filed a long-anticipated anti-trust lawsuit against Google. The lawsuit alleges that Google is “unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States.”

In other words, Google wields an unfair competitive advantage.

Google, of course, holds a commanding share of the online advertising market, at roughly 29 percent, followed by Facebook and Amazon. Ironically, Google’s share has been dropping, and 2020 has been rough on its ad business. But the lawsuit isn’t about market share; it’s about allegedly unfair business practices. Read on for answers to questions you might have about the matter.

What exactly is the lawsuit accusing Google of?

According to the Justice Department, Google illegally protects a monopoly in its core search business. That monopoly is harmful to consumers and Google’s competitors. Google pays companies like Apple billions of dollars to make its search engine the default option on their devices – giving Google an unfair advantage. In addition, the Justice Department alleges that Google capitalizes on its dominance by collecting data from users, thus giving its search-based advertising business even more of an unfair advantage.

What is Google’s response?

Google disagrees strongly. In a blog post, Google’s Senior Vice President of Global Affairs Kent Walker wrote, “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives. This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.”

Walker contends that Google paying businesses like Apple to make its search engine the default search engine is no different from a cereal brand paying a supermarket to stock its products at the end of a row or on a shelf at eye level.

When will the anti-trust case be resolved?

The case could take years to be resolved. Google has deep pockets and will defend itself aggressively. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an outcome anytime soon.

How will the outcome of the presidential election affect the lawsuit?

No matter who wins the presidential election, the lawsuit will move forward. The Justice Department has gone on record saying it is committed to the legal action. Attorney General William P. Barr has aggressive pursued a lawsuit, and the action will simply continue if President Trump wins the election. If Joe Biden wins the election, the consensus legal opinion is that the lawsuit would remain in place.

What happens if Google loses?

Google could get broken up, thus reflecting a growing “break up big tech” sentiment among lawmakers. In the complaint’s “request for relief,” the U.S. is seeking “structural relief as needed to cure any anti-competitive harm.” In other words, Google might be forced to be restructured, or broken up.

What should advertisers who use Google do?

For now, everything is business as usual. The case may take anywhere from six to 18 months to even go to court. We recommend:

  • Do manage your Google advertising account very closely. As we have blogged, Google has been known to introduce features and policy changes that could increase your advertising costs.
  • If you advertise with Amazon Advertising and Facebook, keep a close eye on current events. In recent years, lawmakers have been critical of the Amazon, Facebook, and Google because of their growing dominance. The Google lawsuit may not be the last against them.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with all firms of online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Advertiser Q&A: Microsoft Digital Marketing Center

Advertiser Q&A: Microsoft Digital Marketing Center

Advertising Microsoft

Microsoft has been in the news lately. The tech company has expanded its Microsoft Digital Marketing Center, which provides small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with a central site on which they can manage, online, both advertising campaigns and organic content. Read on to learn more about the Microsoft Digital Marketing Center and what it might offer your brand.

What is the Microsoft Digital Marketing Center?

The Microsoft Digital Marketing Center is a product from the company’s experimental project lab, Microsoft Garage. When it came onto the scene in October 2019, it empowered SMBs to use one interface to manage digital campaigns across multiple networks, from Microsoft to Google and Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In late June 2020, Microsoft announced a major expansion of the product, with additional features such as:

  • Social management inbox, which serves as a central hub for managing likes, direct messages, and replies on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Image ad suggestion, which allows brands to easily create their own effective image ads by choosing from suggested ads.
  • Improved tools for ads, such as a field for an extra headline. The benefit? Advertisers can include more information in their ads and subsequently enhance location targeting.
  • The ability to appeal disapproved ads from Bing and Facebook.
  • A new home page experience that combines social and ad metrics into one user-friendly dashboard view.
  • Twitter support, which is now enabled.

Who is the target audience?

SMBs are the target market. SMBs have captured even more attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. As McKinsey points out, SMBs face an even tougher road to economic recovery. They need all the help they can get.

Who are Microsoft Digital Marketing Center’s competitors?

Microsoft Digital Marketing Center is competing with platforms such as:

  • HubSpot, which is already positioned as a one-stop shop for SMBs. Though Microsoft Digital Marketing Center doesn’t have all the CRM features of a HubSpot, it brings its own advantages to the table. (It’s currently free, for one thing.)
  • Google, to some degree. As Search Engine Land explains, “Similar to Google Smart campaigns, which aim to simplify campaign set up and management for SMBs, Digital Marketing Center uses Microsoft AI to power ad keyword and audience targeting and bidding.”

But Digital Marketing Center gives customers more autonomy. Advertisers can build their own ads. They can also use automated ad copy or modify auto-suggestions.

Why did Microsoft launch this product?

Microsoft probably launched Digital Marketing Center to gain a toehold with the market of small-to-medium-sized businesses, which have more aggressively embraced digital advertising to acquire customers amid the spread of COVID-19. And as noted above, they are not alone in their efforts to win the hearts of this group.

What should I do next?

If you are interested in trialing the Digital Marketing Center, start here. The beta is open to U.S. businesses only at this point.

Is there a “gotcha”?

As with many free products, be aware that you get what you pay for. Digital Marketing Center is totally self-service: you’ll be on your own in managing this tool. In short, it invites self-sufficiency! Also, just because it’s free now doesn’t mean the features will remain free.

Contact True Interactive

Do you want to learn more about the Digital Marketing Center and what it might offer your business? Contact us. We can help.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash