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A Guide to the Google Ad Tech Universe

When Google rolled out a massive reorganization of its ad tech units (DoubleClick, AdWords and Analytics among them) into a single framework called Google Marketing Platform in July 2018, ad tech types were quick to talk about “GMP” like your grandma should know what it means.

Well Grandma didn’t know, and neither did many of our our clients. As it was a change sure to affect many of them, we dove in to help them make sense of the new Google Marketing Platform with an eye toward whether it was the right choice for digital marketing solutions on the advertiser / buyer side, and site monetization solutions on the publisher / seller side. Here’s what we found:

Google Marketing Platform Key Points

Google Marketing Platform has many moving parts. Key points to know:

  • The intent was unification: Google working to unite disparate systems into a single solution.
  • Google Analytics is a central component.
  • Google Marketing Platform is a tiered offering. There are many powerful tools available for free. The “360” services tier is “for enterprise” and gated. To get past the gate (even to just get a peek under the hood) you need to “contact sales” and presumably make some kind of financial commitment before being handed the keys.
  • It’s a powerful and wide-ranging set of tools. Master even the free tiers and you’ll have a set of digital marketing / analytics superpowers.

Google Marketing Platform Components and Definitions

The primary challenge with a wide-ranging framework such as Google Marketing Platform is simply orientation. So we created a map of Google Marketing Platform’s components to build a model of what they are and how they fit together.

Each component is described in more detail below.

Google Ads

Advertiser starting point to buy ads on Google inventory, including search, the AdSense network, YouTube and apps. Was (prior to reorg) Google Adwords. This is the basic tier for ad buyers, with the premium tier being split between two services: Google Display & Video 360 and Google Search 360.

Google AdSense

Program where publishers can place ad tags on their website, which are programmatically fed inventory from Google’s ad supply.

Google Ad Manager

Publisher-focused tool for directly managing ad placement and inventory. Was (prior to reorg) DoubleClick for Publishers and DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

Google Analytics

The analytics platform we know and love.

Google Analytics 360

The premium tier of Google Analytics. Primary benefits are integrations with other Google 360 services, better integration of ad and site performance data, and more complex funnel options.

Google Cloud

Not part of the Google Marketing Platform per se, but where you’re led when your solution requires cloud storage beyond what’s packaged up with the Google Marketing Platform services (e.g. if you wanted to store non-sampled analytics data).

Google Data Studio

Custom dashboard creator.

Google Display & Video 360

Where advertisers configure, buy and manage digital display and video ad campaigns, including creative, placement, bidding and tracking. Most of what was DoubleClick for advertisers (such as DoubleClick Campaign Manager) ended up here.

Google Enhanced Ecommerce

A Google Analytics extension designed to provide data focused on ecommerce scenarios.

Google Marketing Platform

Home base / umbrella for most of the items in this definitions list.

Google Optimize

A/B testing (and other variant testing) service.

Google Optimize 360

Premium tier of Google Optimize. Primary benefit is integration with Google Analytics 360 and more scale.

Google Search Ads 360

A premium tier of Google Ads. Benefits are that it’s more full featured and integrated with the other Google 360 services.

Google Search Console

This free SEO service allows webmasters to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their websites. It’s not part of Google Marketing Platform per se.

Google Surveys

Survey tool for marketing research. Construct, launch and analyze surveys delivered via the Google publishers network or mobile app. Interesting detail is that Google offers incentives (such as Google Play credit) for people to respond.

Google Surveys 360

Premium tier of Google Surveys. Primary benefit is ability to remarket based on survey results and integration with other 360 services.

Google Tag Manager

A “tag for tags” service for publishers that allows them to manage ad tag code via the Google Tag Manager interface, rather than on their sites directly.

Google Tag Manager 360

Premium “tag for tags” service. Primary benefit is integration with other 360 services.

Google Marketing Platform Challenges

We spent a considerable amount of time digging into the Google Marketing Platform, both to gain an overview and to pursue specific digital marketing and site monetization solutions for our clients. Here are some of the challenges and roadblocks we encountered:

  • It’s a vast, complex system that’s hard to fully “get.” The Google Marketing Platform site does a fair job of describing itself, but offers a lot of generalities about “solutions” at the top level, and getting to more concrete information can feel like an easter egg hunt.
  • Even many digital marketing experts struggle when pressed on specifics about Google Marketing Platform. We reached out to a few experts to help us undersand and clarify how to use Google Marketing Platform to help with our specific client scenarios. Then we reached out to a few more. It’s a challenging, fast moving, acronym-laden field, and if you’ve found a digital marketing expert who fully understands the new platform (not just one slice of it) and can translate it to client-friendly, action-oriented terms, you’ve found a gem.
  • If you’re new to Google Marketing Platform, there’s no clear starting point provided. We kept looking for documentation that cut through the “solutions” talk to more direclty say “if you want to achieve <this specific goal>, go to <this specific URL> and do <this specific thing>.” Instead, newcomers are typically routed to a “talk to sales” form.
  • Google Marketing Platform is not responsive to sales inquiries. You can “talk to sales” all you want. It’s tough to get anywhere when sales doesn’t talk back. We reached out through what appeared to be the proper channels and forms multiple times. No response. Our clients did the same. No response. We contacted Google’s recommended partners directly, but they typically offered a slice of the solution in a shape that didn’t match what our clients needed. One of the reasons we had to reach out to digital marketing experts was simply to get access to whatever “secret key” seemed to be required to get a relationship with Google Marketing Platofrm started. Interestingly, some of those same experts, even with inside contacts, are reporting similar responsiveness problems. If that’s been your experience as well, rest assured it’s not just you. The bad news is that the Google ad tech universe is so large and all-consuming, it leaves few viable alternatives for easily connecting multiple advertisers with mulitple sites, and that’s a problem on a couple different levels.

Bottom line: The Google ad tech universe is a big universe. Our exploration, by necessity, continues.


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