Key takeaways for brands after Google Marketing Live 2019

Digital giant bets big on shoppable ads, cross-app campaigns and real-time intelligence.

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There were a couple of telling stats from this week’s Google Marketing Live event, which included many digital ad product announcements and was attended by around 5,000 industry players in San Francisco. In a Google-led study, the tech giant sussed out one particular shopper who wanted to buy a single pair of jeans—the person spent 73 days looking and interacted with more than 250 digital touchpoints (searches, video views and page views) before making a purchase. The modern customer journey can be long and complicated, indeed.

This reality underscores the need for a wide range of customer intelligence—from social media listening and email insights to call data—so brands can act with as much relevance and real-time empathy as possible. Google, as much as any martech or adtech player, understands this need all too well and wants to make it easier for marketers to meet customers where they are at in the shopping cycle.

Now that Google Marketing Live is coming to a close, let’s take a look at the new ad products, stats and takeaways that marketing practitioners need to know.

Ads get more visual across apps

Google Discover, which has been the search engine’s news feed since September, now offers brands ad placements that are swipeable, carousel-style images that Instagram initially popularized a few years ago. Marketers can place the ads on not only Google Discover but also the YouTube home feed and the Gmail promotions tab.

Google also promises that these ads will get smarter and smarter due to machine learning. All told, these developments should be attractive if you’re a brand marketer who wants to run cross-app initiatives that strategically use the Alphabet-owned platforms’ wealth of data.

Advertisers should also pay attention to Gallery ads. Also similar to Instagram’s carousel ads, they are designed to be visually stimulating promos and will render at the top of mobile search results. They entail a scrollable gallery that will include four to eight images and up to 70 characters available for every photo. (Search Engine Land first reported on the emergence of these ads in February.)

Advertisers gain control over KPIs

Notably, Google has made moves on the data front to help ad buyers feel more in control over their campaigns. You can now choose what kinds of conversions (sales, lead-gen, email signups, webinar registrations, etc.) you want as your key performance indicator (KPI) at the campaign level.

Additionally, you can adjust conversion values based on the audiences you want to target. This ability will let you better tweak your ad bidding, which should improve ROI.

Ad tools improve efficiency for marketers on the go

The entire digital advertising ecosystem has gradually moved toward the smartphone mindset, letting you manage your campaigns from almost anywhere. In a growing number of instances, all you need to build and buy ads is a wireless signal. These mobile features help busy, often-traveling campaign managers get their work done in an efficient way.

With all of that in mind, Google now lets you build responsive search ads directly from its Google Ads mobile app. En route to a client meeting across town in a taxi cab but need to launch a last-minute holiday campaign? Google’s Android and iOS app now lets you write the search copy, optimize the headline, place bids and set budget constraints from your smartphone.

Timely data and alerts boost performance

Once again, Google recognizes that marketers aren’t always going to be in front of their laptop or at work. The Google Ads mobile app will now send notifications that alert you of a campaign’s performance as well as when better ad opportunities may be afoot.

Google clearly wants ad buyers to make use of their real-time intelligence. For instance, when certain keywords are performing poorly, you will be able to pause part or all of a campaign. And the app will offer you recommendations that can help drive sales. As one possible example, if you are a sneakers retailer and inventory for the white-hot shoe “Nike Air Presto” is unusually abundant—and therefore lower in cost on the bidding platform—the app will ping you to let you know of the opportunity. Google ad buyers of all sizes should appreciate such information, and the feature underscores how data is transforming all of marketing.

Local ads prove successful

While more and more sales happen online, 88% of all retail still happens offline. Therefore, retailers want their digital ads to not just drive ecommerce but also foot traffic to stores.

In recent years, Google, Facebook, Snapchat and other digital platforms have been working to prove that their ads help drive bricks-and-mortar sales. So, it was intriguing to see Google trot out brand-based statistics ahead of Google Marketing Live and during the show. The most impressive data point offered: Quick-serve giant Dunkin’ increased monthly store visits in some locations by 400% with Google’s location-based advertising.

 

Such revelations signal that hyperlocal marketing has gone multichannel, and advertisers of all sizes are now using digital to not only drive store visits but also sales in other offline channels like inbound phone calls.

Retail ads expanded

It’s clear Google wants a bigger chunk of retail advertising budgets as it competes with Amazon’s growing ad business.

Google revealed that its Showcase Shopping Ads, first debuted in 2017, have gone from being available for regular search results to the image search results, the discover search results and YouTube.

Showcase Shopping ads are similar to Galley Ads in that they offer the ability to include multiple product images that are scrollable from left to right. The ads also offer an easy way for consumers to click through to a product page and then commence to check out.

Marketers: stay ahead of the digital game

Google Marketing Live 2019 shows the brand marketing community continuing to march toward shoppable ads, tools for the mobile-minded practitioner, and improved targeting that leverages location data and granular performance metrics. For Google’s part, the ad products shown off represent the search engine giant’s desire to become a bigger player in retail.

It’s clear that Google is trying to advance how competitive it will be with Facebook, Amazon, and others for brand marketers’ ad dollars in the coming months—especially the holiday season. For all nearly all marketers, it’s imperative to keep pace as the available tools and best practices change at lightning speed.

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Google is focused on Ether and Ozone rather than on Amazon

Google journeys into uncharted territory with offline TV efforts and disruptive purchasing habits – countering competition from Amazon.

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We were marveled at Google Marketing Live. Fascinating demos and ground-breaking announcements like the Discovery Ads and the Bumper machine. The keynote also emphasized that Google is taking privacy seriously, which I was particularly pleased to hear. And in the ad innovations keynote, there was an overwhelming feeling that Google takes competition from Amazon more than seriously without ever mentioning it.

“Did they just say that?” was one of my common reactions during the keynote. I like the format of their presentations and the fact that you can go back and review presentations via the online portal almost immediately after they are finished. “Yes, they did!”, they said they were going to allow advertisers to book campaigns on national broadcast networks and local TV stations programmatically later this year. Google is reaching into the Ether. They also said they wanted to enable purchasing from a whole host of places within the Google properties; via voice commands, in images, in videos, in cars, in search results.

Wait, in search results? Did they just say that?

Buying functionalities will be available everywhere you use Google, a bit like the ozone gas which is distributed in the air around us in the atmosphere. Ozone is present in different doses but everywhere to be found. And it is, of course, the ozone layer that protects us from strong radiation from the sun. Fun fact, ozone which is composed of oxygen, is also lethal to humans if the concentration is too high.

Not only is Google working on Shopping Actions, which you can read more about here [https://searchengineland.com/new-personalized-shopping-actions-enabled-google-shopping-debuts-in-france-314458/], a functionality whereby you can compare products and buy from shops either within Google, by going to an online store or by going to a physical store. Initially, I found this surprising – and even a bit of a fuzzy positioning: buy either here or there or offline in a shop – buy wherever you see fit. It makes a little more sense when you consider that they are also activating the shopping experiences within all their properties and in future projects like in cars which were mentioned several times during the day. Will they be changing their mantra from Mobile First to Shopping First, I wonder? This impressive host of shopping-related initiatives is clearly aimed to defend Google from the rise of Amazon. Put up an ozone layer to protect them from Amazon radiation.

Why is Amazon such a danger to Google?

We currently observe a user behaviour by which an increasing number of people end their user journey on Amazon, whether they start it on Google, Facebook or somewhere else. 

If this user behavior expands further, then Google risks being excluded from the strong monetization related to e-commerce and limited to generating advertising revenues which can’t be connected directly to sales. Due to the way the digital marketing ecosystem works, this is increasingly important.

What originally made Google advertising so compelling was exactly the fact, that an advertising campaign could be directly connected to a conversion. This was what made Google Ads become such a dominating part of the marketing mix, and in turn, this, is what made Google rich.

Today, the user journey is not as linear as it was back then, and it has many more touch-points as the Ads innovation presentation on Google Marketing Live further illustrated: a purchase decision can take a user through 50 to 250 touchpoints and run over long periods of time. In parallel, organisations are increasingly measuring and monitoring the performance of their campaigns based on the impact they have on sales.

Facebook is generating powerful influence on buying decisions but it is a challenge to connect that influence to sales. The same goes for display and video advertising which is the reason why improved integration and measurement between channels is so important. If a sale takes place in a different Walled garden (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, …) than the one which generated the decision to buy, connecting influence to action is difficult. As we saw in the presentations yesterday, Google aim to make it easier to track and monitor behaviour among their own properties and more difficult to track from other properties – in the name of privacy.

We found in our research at Innovell, that search & shopping strategies involving both Google and Amazon are already a winning approach for leading paid search teams around the world. Approximately 80% of these teams include shopping services in their offering, and 32% of them have already started working with Amazon Ads despite limited availability around the world.

With growth in searches slowing down and market share projected to recede in 2019, Google has chosen to take up the challenge. Growth is to be found in shopping and Google is going all in.

Google today master the entire user journey except for the final sales transaction. They are reaching into the ether to connect with one of the last offline media outlets, TV broadcast. And at the other end of the user journey, rather than trying to do what Amazon does, they have chosen to do like the ozone gas, dilute their shopping capabilities everywhere around us when we are in touch with products or services via a Google service. Everywhere to be found, and aiming at disrupting the user journey to their advantage.

2019 is Ether and Ozone.

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Safari’s ITP lead on Chrome’s tracking prevention: It ‘has a long way to go’

His comments highlight the differences in how the two browsers are approaching restrictions on cross-site tracking.

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John Wilander, Apple Webkit engineer and architect of Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) solution, said Wednesday that Chrome’s new approach to privacy and cookie handling will do little to stop trackers.

Google announced Tuesday that it is changing the way its Chrome browser handles third-party cookies and will more aggressively aim to limit fingerprinting. It will require developers to identify cookies that are allowed to work across sites and potentially could be used to track users with a mechanism based on the web’s SameSite cookie attribute. Cookies without the new SameSite attribute will not be available in a third-party context. The browser will later introduce tools to allow users to block or clear third-party cookies and keep first-party cookies to stay logged in and retain site settings.

“What Chrome has announced is a change to their default cookie policy, going from allowing third-party cookie access to not allowing it,”  Wilander said in a Twitter thread. “However, developers can simply reconfigure their cookies to opt out [of] this new policy and we should expect all trackers to do so immediately.”

Wilander said while he sees Chrome’s willingness to “acknowledge that tracking is a problem on the web” and make changes as positive steps, it’s not going far enough. “For a cookie policy to have meaningful effect on cross-site tracking,” he wrote, “you also need to partition storage available to third-parties such as LocalStorage, IndexedDB, ServiceWorkers, and cache.” Safari has enabled this kind of partitioning to prevent cross-site tracking in a third-party context since 2013.

He pointed to a 2013 WebKit bug tracker page on cache partitioning in which a Chrome engineer — back when Chromium used Webkit — essentially asked to be able to opt out of the partitioning because “the cache partitioning feature is not supported by the consensus of the WebKit project.” Just over a month later, Google forked WebKit and launched Blink, its rendering engine still used by Chromium.

ITP cross-site cookie blocking. Safari introduced ITP in 2017 to block third-party trackers from capturing cross-site browsing data — chiefly preventing retargeting efforts. “ITP detects which domains have the ability to track the user and either deletes all of their cookies and website data, or blocks third-party cookie access,” said Wilander. The latest versions, 2.1 and 2.2, go further to keep third-party cookies from abusing first-party storage space, he added.

“This is all to say that Chrome has a long way to go if they are serious about fighting tracking on the web,” Wilander said. “Their announced changes will not do anything now, but they are important steps because they show Chrome’s willingness to move.”

Why we should care. Wilander’s response can be seen simply as a jab at a rival, but it highlights the divergent approaches to — and attitudes toward — tracking by Apple and Google. Apple has long staked out an anti-tracking stance, and ITP’s escalating restrictions have marketers scrambling to understand the impact on retargeting and analytics.

Chrome’s approach is significant given Google’s decade-long role in data collection and tracking. Privacy was a theme of I/O this week  (supported by a New York Times op-ed by CEO Sundar Pichai Tuesday) and spanned multiple products, including more location data controls in Android and products such as search and Maps.

That said, Chrome’s cookie handling change is relatively small and likely just a first step. With both a developer component — which may invite workarounds as Wilander suggests — and a user component that may or may not be widely adopted. It’s entirely unclear how much of a shakeup this will mean for marketers. But two different approaches means marketers will need to have both eyes open.

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Google’s Chrome will change cross-site cookie handling, ‘aggressively’ tackle fingerprinting

Though the cookie is exceeding its shelf-life, the change stands to further shake up marketers’ remarketing, analytics and attribution efforts.

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As expected, Google announced coming changes to the way its Chrome browser handles cookies and addresses fingerprinting on Tuesday at its annual I/O developer conference. New tools in Chrome will allow users to block or clear third-party cookies more easily, Google said. The company also announced a browser extension that will show more information about parties involved in ad transactions and tracking.

Chrome’s new cookie handling. Google said “blunt approaches” to cookie blocking haven’t been effective for users because they treat all cookies alike — from first-party cookies used to keep users signed-in to sites to third-party cookies used for tracking — so it’s changing how cookies work in Chrome.

From a security standpoint, Google said this change will also help protect cookies from cross-site injection and data disclosure attacks by default. Eventually, Google said, Chrome will limit cross-site cookies to HTTPS connections.

In the coming months, developers will be required to specify explicitly which cookies are able to work across sites and potentially used to track users through a new mechanism based on the web’s SameSite cookie attribute. The SameSite attribute can be used to restrict cookies to first-party or same-site context.

In the weeds. Chrome 76 will include a new same-site-by-default-cookies flag, according to web.dev. Cookies without the SameSite attribute will not be available in a third-party context. Developers will need to declare cookies that need to be available on third-party sites to Chrome with SameSite=None. Google says this will allow Chrome users to clear cross-site cookies and leave single domain cookies used that are used for logins and site settings in tact.

Developers can start testing their sites to see how the cookie-handling changes will affect their sites in the latest developer version of Chrome.

Cracking down on fingerprinting. The company also said it is taking further measures to restrict browser fingerprinting methods that are used as workarounds to keep tracking in place when users opt out of third-party cookies.

Google said Chrome plans to “aggressively restrict” browser fingerprinting and reduce the ways browsers can be passively fingerprinted. “Because fingerprinting is neither transparent nor under the user’s control, it results in tracking that doesn’t respect user choice,” said Google.

The company added that it doesn’t use fingerprinting for personalizing ads or allow fingerprinting data to be imported into its ad products.

User cookie controls. Google said it will provide users will more information about how sites are using cookies and give them simpler controls for managing cross-site cookies. The company didn’t say what these changes will look like in the Chrome interface, but said it will preview the features for users later this year.

Ad data browser extension. The company also announced it is developing an open-source browser extension that will show the names of ad tech players involved in an ad transaction as well as the companies with ad trackers attached to an ad. The extension will also show the factors used for personalization. That will be the same information Google shows when you click “Why this ad”.

Why we should care. The end of digital advertising ecosystem’s reliance on cookies for tracking and attribution has been a long time coming. Cookies aren’t supported on mobile apps, and the mobile web and apps now account for the majority of ad spend. Google and Facebook have led a shift away from cookies to relying on deterministic IDs of signed-in users.

Chrome is not a first mover in this realm, either. It’s following in Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) footsteps. The latest version, ITP 2.2, will limit cross-site cookie tracking of users in Safari to one day. Earlier this week, Microsoft announced its Chromium-based Edge browser will also have new tracking controls for third-party cookies.

For marketers, the full impact of these changes and how users respond to the tools likely won’t be seen for months, but stand to have a significant impact on remarketing, analytics and attribution efforts. It’s also unclear if (or how much) Chrome’s new requirements will benefit Google with its first-party relationships with billions of users over other ad tech firms, as the Wall Street Journal has predicted.

The Chrome announcements come amid a broader PR campaign by Google aimed at would-be U.S. regulators. Google CEO Sundar Pichai published an op-ed in The New York Times Tuesday night titled “Privacy should not be a luxury good” in which he reiterated Google’s position that “a small subset of data helps serve ads that are relevant and that provide the revenue that keeps Google products free and accessible” and listed ways in which the company addresses user data. Pichai called for federal data privacy legislation in the vein of the EU’s GDPR. Google reportedly began lobbying for a “friendly” version of a federal law last summer.

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