While Google has gotten really good at display – more than $4 billion in display ad revenue good – how about the rest of Google’s digital marketing stack?
Like enterprise platform players Oracle, IBM, Adobe and Salesforce.com, Google’s ad and marketing tech offering is a sum of many acquired parts.
Google followed its $3.1 billion acquisition of ad server DoubleClick in 2007 with two key ingredients that would pad out its exchange: Invite Media on the buy side and Admeld on the sell side. Then there was mobile ad network AdMob, enterprise social marketing with Wildfire Interactive, creative with Teracent, online ad fraud detection via Spider.io and Adometry for marketing attribution.
By no means is the list exhaustive when one considers the rest of Google’s mix, like the billion-dollar-plus Product Listing ads (PLAs) business, Google Tag Manager and, of course, its near-ubiquitous Google Analytics business.
But as programmatic media and marketing technology continue to merge, will Google get into the enterprise racket – a world characterized by databases and customer relationships?
“Google is reliant on the journey of the cookie,” said one source who asked to remain anonymous due to their company’s relationship with Google. “They don’t dig in to the CRM when that consumer goes from a cookie stored in a browser session to lead-info that’s transferred to a company. There is a big hole and a gap there with the customer acquisition charter.”
“Google is a godsend on so many levels, don’t get me wrong,” said another. “But the big challenge in modern marketing is we need to connect all of these dots and systems, and without customer data, you can’t do it to the extent that you need to.”
Google has paid lip service to the complexities faced by cross-channel marketers. In 2012, the company rolled out DoubleClick Digital Marketing (DDM), a “unified” umbrella of offerings designed to “to reach the right audience at the right moment with the right message.” Although DDM’s capabilities range from bid and search management to rich media, attribution and Web analytics, there is a gap in the lead-gen and direct-messaging component.
“Google is great at building data connections between Google properties,” said Jeremy Hull, director of bought media at digital performance agency iProspect. “I am a big fan of their product suite. They build good product. But their challenge long-term and what they would need to do to be seen as a good CRM database player is to build better connections between other datasets. There would need to be some give and take since there may be partners who don’t want to share as much with Google.”
Enterprise platforms thrive on their partner ecosystems. Salesforce.com’s CRM AppExchange numbers in the thousands and Oracle maintains two marketing partner programs – the Oracle BlueKai Data Partner Program and Oracle Marketing AppCloud – each numbering in the hundreds.
Oracle, in many ways, has carried the same cross as Google – With “the old Oracle,” as Scott Vaughan, CMO of marketing and ad tech company Integrate put it, “it would have been ‘us’ or ‘nobody else.’ [Now] they’re saying, ‘We’re going to help you plug into all these applications and partners.’”
Google, too, operates a Google Partners program, but that’s primarily geared toward advertisers who use AdWords and other Google ad solutions. As David Rodnitzky, CEO of agency 3Q Digital pointed out, if you want to work with Google, you’ve “got to embrace co-opetition.”
One of the biggest obstacles for Google to become more “open” with data is its very value proposition. “If a company is already hesitant to share Web analytics data with Google, you can be sure that they won’t jump at the chance to also share revenue and offline conversion data” with Google because of its role as both a publisher and a tech platform, he said.
To that end, a major challenge for Google will be data integration between natural search and “anything else,” Hull said. “They [could really hit the ceiling] as the provider of the product and of the data. I keep using the church and state example, but it’s very true. The natural search algorithm and the monetization piece of that are completely walled off and separate at Google and that’s something they do as good business practice. But that’s where third parties have a little bit of an advantage.”