Big Changes at Google Promise More Relevant Ads

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I’m old enough to remember life before Google. There, I said it. 

I started using the Internet regularly in college, and finding things online was not so easy in those days. It was the norm to perform multiple searches across three or four search engines (Lycos, Excite, Infoseek, AltaVista, Yahoo!, etc.) until you either found what you were looking for or resorted to actually going to the library. When Google hit the scene in 1998, it was a revelation. Using the currency of what people were linking to online, Google was able to deliver search results that got it right just about every time. I was hooked. It was like Google was reading my mind.

Fast forward almost 20 years and Google’s relentless pursuit of knowing what its users want continues. Last month at the Google Marketing Live event in San Jose, CA, Google announced some major changes and enhancements to its marketing tools aimed at delivering highly relevant ads to customers. Here are the big takeaways:

Say Goodbye to AdWords and DoubleClick

It’s shocking to think that these two iconic marketing brand names have really been sunset. DoubleClick started way back in the dial-up days of 1996. Google has made a bevy of other ad tech purchases since, flying many of them under the DoubleClick name.

The AdWords platform launched in 2000, and it has grown into a marketing juggernaut that accounts for the majority of Google’s $100 billion-plus in annual revenue. The AdWords platform has been the home of campaigns on Google Search, the Google Display Network and YouTube for years.

Of course, these lucrative platforms aren’t going away.

Say Hello to Google Ads, the Google Marketing Platform

Google AdWords is now known as Google Ads (to repeat a corny joke they made during the Marketing Live event, they really did a good job of getting the word” out). The DoubleClick products are now a part of the new Google Marketing Platform, along with Google Analytics 360 and a bunch of other heretofore disparate Google marketing tools like Google Optimize and Google Tag Manager. The DoubleClick Bid Manager demand-side platform (DSP) is now known as Display & Video 360. DoubleClick Campaign Manager, which has become the industry’s de facto ad server, will now simply be known as Campaign Manager, and DoubleClick Search is now known as Search Ads 360.

So, What Does All of This Mean?

Aside from those of us who have been in digital media for a while having to rewire parts of our brains to speak in these new terms, there are some not-so-hidden hints in the name changes and product announcements. The 360 found in all of the new branding for the erstwhile DoubleClick suite is a nod to Google’s ongoing quest to stitch together a complete picture of the customer. Putting the paid media and analytics tools together in one platform is another step toward bringing buying and behavior together. Google’s game here is to accelerate its ability to use the unprecedented data they collect to better connect advertisers with consumers in ways that add value for both. That’s what made the AdWords product so revolutionary when it hit the scene. It was the first advertising platform to reward relevance, and thus the usefulness, of advertising.

In fact, you can look at the AdWords launch as the beginning of a significant shift in the relationship between consumers and advertising from top-down and interruptive to bottom-up and interactive. That shift continues as the rebranded Google Ads platform comes with features like responsive ads that use machine learning to automatically assemble the most relevant ad messaging and smart campaigns that automate just about every part of setting up and running a campaign for a small business. Going from Google AdWords to Google Ads may seem like a small change, but it’s really about a recognition that context and user behavior signals have propelled us light years ahead of mere keyword targeting.

Taken together, the impact of these changes may be limited in the near term (names, features, organization of products), but the things they tell us about where Google and the broader digital marketing ecosystem is going is anything but. Google (and others in the space) may not be able to read your mind, but don’t be surprised when it continues to feel that way.

Scott Ensign is Vice President of Digital Media at Dixon Schwabl and is relentless in his pursuit of great targeting for digital campaigns. Call him a conservationist, because he hates wasting money on the wrong audience.

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