The Google-DoubleClick storyline contains a number of interesting subplots. To say it will be interesting to see how they all pan out is an understatement.
The advertising exchange
DoubleClick recently announced its plans to allow advertisers to purchase media inventory across its vast base of publisher clients. This was the first sign of DoubleClick getting back into the media brokerage space after unloading its ad network to L90 in 2002.
DoubleClick's rationale was that it didn't care who sold the ad as long as it was the one to serve it. That was the prudent mentality back in '02 when online media budgets were being cut left and right. But since then, Google, Advertising.com, Right Media, and others have proven that there's good margin to be made brokering inventory in an automated fashion.
The DoubleClick Advertising Exchange gives Google instant access to premium online display inventory. The big question is, can the DART platform scale to incorporate offline inventory?
Google's recently inked deals with EchoStar and Clear Channel underscore its commitment to brokering radio and TV space. Clearly, Google would like to have one centralized system for advertisers and publishers to buy/sell, serve, and track all media campaigns.
Combine the DoubleClick Advertising Exchange with Google's AdSense network, quality score algorithm and recent foray into pay-per-action advertising, and all the pieces are in place for an Advertising.com on steroids. If Google can manage to integrate all these assets, it will provide unmatched scale for performance-based advertisers.
Speaking of performance marketing, what will be the fate of DoubleClick's Performics division? Founded as an affiliate marketing firm, Performics has blossomed into a top search marketing agency. Following it's acquisition by DoubleClick in 2004, Performics integrated its technology into the DART Search platform. Now, Google has the ability to tap into Performics' expertise with the CPA model to help perfect its pay-per-action initiative. The underlying issue, however, is the conflict-of-interest inherent in Google owning a search agency.
3rd party search ad serving
Search marketers have long been yearning for 3rd party serving of search ads. Not only would it help allay concerns over click fraud, 3rd party served search ads would enable holistic measurement of online media activity and give marketers and agencies the tools to effectively measure the impact of display on search and vice versa. If we ever hope to truly prove that search can deliver on brand awareness goals, we need 3rd party serving to incorporate the impression into the mix.
The other side of the 3rd party serving coin, of course, is that now Google is the "3rd party." Will GoogleClick's numbers be the ones that we all abide by when it comes to tracking, reporting, and reconciling click fraud? At Resolution Media, we use DART Search to manage many of our client's search campaigns. We notice discrepancies between DART and Google numbers all the time. Whose methodology will win out?
I've been trumpeting video search as the "next big thing" for quite some time. With broadband access becoming nearly universal and more and more professional video producers posting their content online, robust video search solutions are needed to help consumers navigate the vast number (and quality) of video content. And, as Google has proven, where there's a robust search solution, there's a robust advertising opportunity. The sight, sound, and motion of video is especially appealing to marketers. The challenge Google faces is helping its 400,000-plus advertisers create video ads and evaluate effectiveness beyond click-rate and conversion-rate.
Enter DART motif, DoubleClick's rich media platform, which allows for video ad creation, serving and tracking. Could Motif be the product that finally allows Google to tap advertisers' TV budgets?
Behavioral targeting and search retargeting
Google and DoubleClick are two of the world's biggest cookie droppers. Combine them and they'll be putting out more cookies in a day than Chips Ahoy does in a year. Tracking user-behavior across all of DoubleClick's publisher sites and the Google AdSense network will provide unparalleled profile data. Layer in search query activity and marketers will be able to create and scale niche profiles for customized message targeting and sequencing.
Access to brands
For some time, Google has been focused on taking its message directly to marketers. Its compelling pitch is for brands to digitize all their assets so they can be found whenever and wherever its audience is seeking them. More and more CMO's have started drinking the Google kool-aid, however, but it hasn't been until now that advertisers have truly needed Google. DoubleClick's roster of clients using its DFA platform reads like a who's who of online advertisers. These marketers are now reliant on Google in a way they've never been in the past. What will Google do with this access and position of power?
Access to publishers
Similarly, publishers are now dependent on Google in a way they had never been before. Tapping Google's vast advertiser network to monetize portions of their inventory and enjoying the traffic referred by the Google search engine, publishers seemed content to let Google thrive in its role as the "frienemy." That was before Google had access to all their back-end data. Additionally, Google now has access to data regarding publishers' pipeline of advertisers and proposals via DART Sales Manager. It remains to be seen how publishers will react to Big Brother getting bigger.
I could have easily titled items #8 and 9 on this list "Exposure of Brands" and "Exposure of Publishers." A quick repositioning casts these topics in a more disparaging light, focusing on the potential pain rather than gain of Google and DoubleClick coming together. You can be sure that the Google PR machine is working overtime right now to ensure advertisers and publishers that they are focused on the upside here.
The key to that endeavor is reassuring the market that the integrity of the data GoogleClick is collecting will not be compromised. Whether it be advertiser conversion data used to hike up rates, impact the quality score, or agency MediaVisor entries used to identify new sales opportunities, the potential for abuse of GoogleClick data is truly frightening. We'll have to see how Google gets us comfortable here. The old "Chinese wall" approach to M&A integration clearly will not suffice.
Early signs suggest the Google spin will be focused on the efficiencies GoogleClick creates as evidenced by Sergey Brin's quote in the press release announcing the acquisition.
"It has been our vision to make Internet advertising better, less intrusive, more effective and more useful. Together with DoubleClick, Google will make the internet more efficient for end users, advertisers and publishers," Brin said.
Will efficiency prevail over privacy? Only time will tell, but if adoption of products like Google Checkout, Google Analytics and Google Reader are any indication, efficiency has a fighting chance.
Aaron Goldman is VP, client strategy & development at Resolution Media. .