When it comes to important software tools in the advertising ecosystem, most conversations start with Google/YouTube. Google collects somewhere on the order of half of all global online ad revenue, has millions of advertiser customers — and likely millions of end-users for its advertising tools. Google updates these tools often. Here’s a rundown of three notable recent announcements related to Google’s flagship Display & Video 360 (DV360) buy-side platform:
1. Outcome-based automated bidding. DV360 now allows cost-per-click, per-conversion, or per-install to be specified as ad-buying (and payment) parameters in all display campaigns which include a post-click conversion goal. The use of automated bidding has also been extended to all non-guaranteed deals, and now includes the ability to optimise at the overall insertion order level, not just individual line item.
2. Algorithmic frequency management. Also in DV360, Google has launched a machine learning solution to frequency management which works across cookie-based and non-cookie based scenarios. Google uses web traffic that does have third party cookies to model traffic that does not. This has great potential to improve results within the Google ecosystem (including a huge swath of mobile traffic from Apple/Safari). It doesn’t, of course, help advertisers manage frequency outside of Google’s ecosystem.
3. Video ad sequencing on TrueView video ads. In Google’s words, ad sequencing allows advertisers to “tell your product or brand story by showing people a series of videos in the order that you define”. The recent announcement is the latest enhancement to a set of creative video advertising tools that Google/YouTube first released in 2017. In 2018, it added enhancements for ad testing, creative analytics, dynamic video content, and ad sequencing. Now, ad sequencing can be deployed via DV360 against YouTube TrueView ads, the popular skippable-after-5-seconds format that can be found on in-stream and in search results.
Taken together, these tool enhancements:
• Sharpen the double-edge sword of advertisers’ relationship with Google. On one side, Google’s latest enhancements offer a cornucopia of opportunity to data-driven advertisers. Sophisticated ad buyers no doubt are already testing and harnessing the power enhanced frequency control, performance-based bidding, and video sequencing. On the other side, the more advertisers come to depend on Google to measure these new techniques, the dimmer the prospects for meaningful independent, auditable measurement standards to take hold anytime soon.
• Set the stage for more universal frequency management and ad orchestration. Each announcement has significant technical limitations, but there is no reason Google can’t or won’t engineer around those. Outcome-based bidding can be expanded from display to video ads. The same automated, big-data sampling and learning that drives algorithmic frequency capping could be applied across all ads on an Android device, not just in the browser. And video ad sequencing could be deployed into YouTube’s TV, Google’s cable-like premium video bundle.
• Underscore Google’s unique market power. The pace of ad product innovation at Google and the scale of its consumer base and media market influence are without peer. Google fully exercises this power when it makes changes to its commercial ad systems in concert with changes to it its consumer-facing apps, Chrome browser and Android device operating system. Google has the power to unilaterally mandate changes in how advertising is bought, sold, delivered, and measured. As others have pointed out, changing privacy regulations provide a convenient rationale for Google to extend and tighten this dominance.