PMG Digital Made for Humans

The Day DoubleClick Went Dark and Other Google Oddities and Updates

5 MINUTE READ | March 27, 2018

The Day DoubleClick Went Dark and Other Google Oddities and Updates

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Emily Denney

Emily Denney has written this article. More details coming soon.

We at PMG (and other digital marketers) use Google products day in and day out, but in recent weeks, we’ve experienced some out of the ordinary occurrences that, in short, have thrown us for a loop. Maybe you can relate?

Nearly ten years to the day after Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick, the advertising platform identified a bug that resulted in some clicks failing to redirect to the proper landing pages.

Below is a timeline of events as they occurred at PMG:

  • 4:46 p.m. CST: PMG account teams received an email from our agency rep that, in part, said the following:

    “The DoubleClick Search team has identified an issue where click trackers are not redirecting users to landing pages. Our engineering team is aware of this issue and actively working to resolve this issue.”

    The email advised us to consider pausing our search campaigns (most did) and said further updates would follow.

  • 7:22 p.m. CST: A second email stated that DS engineers had turned off redirects (meaning active ads would still serve but conversion tracking would not) and paused bid strategies so no changes would be based on incorrect data. Most account teams noted the return of landing page functionality and began reactivating ads in the 6:00 hour.

  • 8:19 p.m. CST: A third email classified the problem as “fully rectified,” meaning ad serving and click/conversion tracking was back up and running, while bid strategies remained paused. We found out later that bid strategies were also reactivated upon full confirmation of the issue’s resolve.

During this time, Twitter was rife with conversation as users spread the news and sought an explanation.

On Monday morning, several PMGers gathered around a conference room table for an update from our agency rep.

Here’s what we found out:

  • While the ad status dashboard first identified the issue at 9:30 a.m., it was isolated to accounts running through EMEA servers at that time. When problems surfaced in the Americas later in the day, engineers then began investigating and removing tracking.

  • Investigations to identify the root cause are ongoing, and more answers are expected in the next week or so.

  • Assessments of the impact to individual clients are also underway, and credits may potentially be given depending on the impact.

  • Nothing this widespread has happened in quite some time, so digging into the issue may take a while, as the intent is to prevent it from happening again.

  • DCM and DBM were also impacted, and account managers for those platforms should be able to provide more information.

We expect to receive an official statement from the platform soon.

In similar news, below are a few other strange occurrences we’ve encountered in the Google-Sphere lately:

Google removed more than 3.2 billion bad ads in 2017. So far in 2018, we’ve seen some less than desirable quirks. Let me explain:

  • On a Thursday evening, traffic in a client’s accounts went from normal to low to nonexistent in a matter of hours as a result of widespread ad disapprovals.

  • Ads in multiple accounts stopped serving and were flagged as “Limited by: Trademarks in ad text” – even ads containing no trademarked text.

  • After we created new ads and confirmed approval across all accounts, traffic eventually returned to normal on Friday afternoon.

  • The following week, the same thing happened again.

We’re still unsure what triggered the disapprovals, but our Google team was very helpful in bringing a satisfactory resolution to the client.

This example is just as strange as the first, but of an inverse nature. In a different client’s accounts, we experienced roadblocks when trying to pause ads. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Filtering for the desired ads and attempting to pause them prompted the following error in the previous UI: “This campaign and its contents cannot be modified in AdWords.”

  • With the same filters applied in the new UI, the ads did not show up as active.

  • The desktop editor also threw up errors when trying to pause the ads.

To make a long story short, the ads now appear in to have been paused in the UI on the date of first attempt. We don’t know what exactly happened here, either.

To round out with a few updates, below are some changes coming to AdWords in the next few weeks:

  1. The visual sitelinks beta will end on April 2. Incorporating images into search ads may take another form in the future.

  2. Ad suggestions will begin appearing on the recommendations page on April 29. These copy variations will be based on existing text ads and aimed at improving performance. Unless explicitly edited or dismissed, ad suggestions will automatically apply 14 days after creation. By default, all accounts will opt into automatic application of ad suggestions, but the setting can be changed.

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We use Google products every day, and in the current digital age, changes take place almost as often. We do our best to stay on top of updates and will be sharing learnings whenever possible.

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