Google Doubles Down on Automation, Consumer Privacy at Google Marketing Live
This article was written by Jason Hartley. As Head of Search and Shopping, Jason oversees PMG’s holistic approach to search across their client portfolio. A senior member of PMG’s Center of Excellence (COEs), he consults on media strategies across clients like Nike and Gap brands. He also leads PMG’s holistic approach to privacy. Alongside his work at PMG, Jason is a member of the Google Performance Council and ANA Ethics Policy Committee.
This year’s Google Marketing Live session was different than in years past as keynote speakers spent as much time speaking about the company’s new privacy-first philosophy as they did unveiling Google’s latest products. While Google maintains its focus on machine learning for campaign management, the company is doubling down on the value of consumer insights, even if some insights don’t lead to direct optimizations.
Because the pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders resulted in massive transformations — like surging ecommerce adoption, curbside pick-up, and increased cord-cutting amid the decline of live sports and growth of streaming services — Google has dubbed this acceleration of digital as the third great disruption, coming only after the emergence of broadband and move to mobile some years ago.
The fourth disruption — a greater focus on protecting consumer privacy — is currently underway, serving as a catalyst for Google’s shift in strategy. And unlike the previous disruptions, which led to more digital advertisers using Google’s products, the push for greater consumer privacy represents a significant challenge to digital advertisers as it could reduce the value placed on user data in the Google marketing ecosystem via diminished capacity for targeting and measurement. The focus for the future, then, is not collecting more data, but doing more (and better) with less data.
Google acknowledges this challenge can not be solved by engineers alone and has been in open collaboration with partners across the industry to identify the best path forward. While the industry faces many hurdles related to better data transparency and consumer privacy, the progress made by Google, and presented at Google Marketing Live, is an encouraging sign that real progress is being made.
The topics of improving privacy and collaboration were constant themes throughout Google Marketing Live as Google mapped out its plans for improvements to automation, measurement solutions, and online commerce in a privacy-first world. Automation remains central for optimizing performance across Google products, though it remains to be seen how privacy-first changes could lead to potential disruptions, like signal loss, in the future. As a result, Google remains focused on improving the use of modeling based on consented data, beginning with upgrades to tagging. While brands must decide what data to share, a tagging upgrade should benefit most, if not all, digital advertisers. For both brands and Google, modeling will be increasingly reliant on first-party data as signal loss grows.
To address the changes and nuances brought on by more privacy-first advertising, Google has been busy creating tools to help brands glean more dynamic and robust insights while adding solutions that fill the gaps within existing campaigns. For instance, Google’s global Insights Page empowers digital advertisers with additional information on search queries that are growing in volume, among other insights.
These type of insights are crucial for brands that are emerging from the pandemic with challenges from seemingly every side of the business — supply chains constraints, brick-and-mortar re-openings, and more — not to mention the rapidly evolving trends that are shaping consumer behavior and media engagement as America steers into a new sense of normalcy.
Along with a greater focus on improving privacy and collaboration, Google also emphasized simplicity across its offerings, especially with ad products geared towards commerce. At a previous conference, Google unveiled its Shopping Graph, a model that seeks to connect products, sellers, reviews, product information, and inventory, to provide a more seamless experience for consumers that is also easier for brands to use.
At Google Marketing Live, Google announced a new partnership with Shopify under the vision of “democratizing commerce” so businesses can “focus on what matters” instead of managing a complicated online offering. Conceptually, this partnership and approach make sense, but many of these changes will be fairly invisible to users. As Google introduces new partners to the platform, the company will also need to re-train consumers to think of Google as an ecommerce destination, similar to Amazon, Target, and Walmart, among other marketplaces.
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In the end, it was clear that Google’s approach is privacy-safe, insights led and agile in ways only automation can enable. As shared at Google Marketing Live, Google envisions the evolution of the industry to occur as an “organic process,” rather than a project with a clear beginning, middle, and end. With this, though, Google needs partners to help shape the future of advertising and compete in the present-day market. For brands that are eager to innovate and invest in diversifying their relationship with Google, now is the time to step up and make those intentions known. Bold brands will help determine what comes next for Google and the marketing industry at large.