It almost had to happen. Ad stacks are proliferating across the digital media landscape, and corporate behemoths such as IBM and Adobe are refining and growing their suites of digital marketing and advertising software offerings. All the while, Google has been very quiet on the display advertising front.
No longer. Yesterday at DoubleClick Insights, Google announced its commitment to going full-bore into the stack wars with what Neal Mohan, vice president, display advertising, described to me in an advanced briefing as "the biggest upgrade in DoubleClick history."
Everything advertising at Google -- search, the Google Display Network, AdSense, text ads, rich media, YouTube, and mobile advertising (AdMob) -- will be combined into a new brand: a digital advertising suite dubbed DoubleClick Digital Marketing. The components include:
- DoubleClick Digital Marketing Manager -- an upgraded version of the DoubleClick ad server, the control panel for ad scheduling, delivery, reporting, and more across premium media.
- DoubleClick Bid Manager -- a revamping of media buying platform Invite Media. Google promises faster processing and better reporting to manage audience buying across ad exchanges.
- DoubleClick Search (launched last year), which enables buying across multiple search engines.
- DoubleClick Studio -- a rich media solution that now incorporates Teracent.
- Google Analytics integration.
"It's a rolling thunder kind of rollout," Mohan explained. Workflow, reporting and portfolio management components won't be released for several weeks. "We invested very heavily in building out a unified stack instead of kluging together existing products."
Mohan identified three core benefits of turning all Google's ad products into a unified stack (and DoubleClick is the platform used by most top agencies and advertisers). The first is "giving time back to our advertisers and agencies." In a typical week, Mohan estimates that up to two full days are spent in various digital platforms that don't talk to each other. "By bringing all these pieces together, we can save up to six working weeks per person, per year," he said.
Unified reporting and attribution is the second benefit. DoubleClick promises its suite will provide perspective and insights across campaigns and channels. How did display influence search, or vice versa?
Finally, Google says it is offering cross-channel campaign optimization that will encompass bidding and campaign management.
How will Google's stack differ from the other major players such as Adobe and IBM? Most notably, DoubleClick includes an ad server -- those two players don't serve ads (AppNexus, however, does). Critically, the stack will maintain an open API to enable integrations of other software packages.
An open API is a desirable feature in any ad technology stack, but here it's critical as (Google+ excepted) social support is something earmarked for an unspecified future date, not the present. Moreover, it's hardly a secret that Google's relationship with Twitter is tenuous, and with Facebook openly competitive. Both can be viewed as significant shortcomings in a truly integrated stack -- though clearly no stack out there is all things to all advertisers.
Social isn't Google's only long-term goal. "Digital, whether on the search or display side, has been a result of performance marketing," Mohan said. "The brand opportunity still remains untapped."
Smashing silos and making digital processes easier, more streamlined, and unified is a good thing. What remains to be seen is if the digital brand opportunity lies in display advertising, or in social channels such as earned and owned media.
Rebecca Lieb is a research analyst covering digital advertising, marketing and media at the Altimeter Group.
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