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Ad tech is complicated. Choosing the right tools for your organization’s different objectives can be a challenge. For example, you may need to choose a platform to place key media buys for paid search, programmatic or video advertising. Or, you might need technology that will help you to research, plan, build and optimize your campaigns. 

It’s important to consider whether or not your current martech stack accommodates integration between ad tech, analytics, testing, personalization and other key technologies. Add to that the question of ROI: are ad tech tools worth the investment of time, effort, and hard costs?

Within the Google ecosystem, there are a number of advertising tools and platforms designed to address a variety of marketing needs. To help you make an informed decision around ad tech solutions, we’ll dive into the 4 different platforms that Google has to offer (Google Ads, Display & Video 360, Search Ads 360, and Campaign Manager 360) and how to develop an ad tech strategy to help get the most out of your investment.

What is Google Ads, and how does it serve advertisers? 

Google Ads was designed as a one-stop-shop to access Google Ads inventory. It gives advertisers access to paid search, display (through the Google Display Network), shopping ads and video ads placements through YouTube inventory. Inventory sources include both Google-owned assets as well as their partner publisher sites (Adsense, Google Search Partners, Google Ad Manager). 

The platform itself features many built-in targeting and optimization features such as: 

  • Geo-targeting and exclusion
  • Access to demographic, affinity, interest-based, and in-market segments
  • A number of automated bid strategies, including target return-on-ad-spend
  • Site remarketing and CRM remarketing with the customer match features by loading lists directly into Google Ads for use in targeting 
  • Advanced integrations with Google Analytics, Google Analytics 360, Google Ads Data Hub, Merchant Center for product feeds, Data Studio for reporting and dashboards and Google Optimize 

The basic value proposition of the Google Ads environment is access to high-value paid search, display, video, and shopping ads inventory within a single buying platform and with enough targeting and optimization features to ensure small and mid-size advertisers can get the best return possible.

A look at the Google Marketing Platform ad tech stack  

Google Marketing Platform’s ad tech stack is a substantial investment for advertisers. It’s also a substantial upgrade in marketing capabilities. 

The overall digital advertising ecosystem is fragmented. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of technology platforms and media buying platforms that an advertiser may work with. Even the list of industry leaders is considerable across the different kinds of technology and functionality you may need—from ad serving, to search management, to buying platforms, to web analytics platforms and more. 

When Google decided to consolidate its marketing platforms under the Google Marketing Platform umbrella they were responding to a strong trend in our industry: the convergence of analytics, martech and ad tech. 

The rebrand brought together the Google Analytics 360 advanced measurement suite, Google Tag Manager 360, Data Studio, Optimize 360, and Surveys 360 as well as the powerful ad technology platforms. 

Formerly known as the DoubleClick suite of products,Search Ads 360, Display & Video 360 and Campaign Manager each bring significant ad tech capabilities and benefits: 

  • Search Ads 360 brings advanced automated bidding tools as well as the ability to holistically manage all of your paid search within a single platform. 
  • Display & Video 360 is an advanced, intelligent and automated media buying platform—allowing you to execute programmatic buys as well as any direct buys and private auction media buys in real time and at scale. 
  • Campaign Manager 360 is a web-based ad serving platform, and it is the shared data and reporting backbone of the Google Marketing Platform ad tech stack.

Search Ads 360 features

Let’s look at some detailed features in Search Ads 360 that may warrant an investment in the platform. 

Automate campaign management: Search Ads 360 enables advertisers to automate campaign management. You can build, research and execute your paid search campaigns directly within Search Ads 360. You can layer in advanced bid optimization strategies at an account level, so you can bucket campaigns according to product lines or service lines—as well as underlying tactics such as shopping ads versus true paid search. You can also attach different business goals to those different portfolios and then automate your bid management to those different portfolios of campaigns. Another advanced feature is simply being able to manage all of your search within a single platform, such as Google Ads, Bing or Baidu if you are an international advertiser. There are some additional social media reporting tools available within the platform as well. However, the bread and butter of Search Ads 360 is the management and optimization of your paid search initiatives. 

Unified insights: Because Search Ads 360 is part of the Google Marketing Platform, it shares the measurement and reporting capabilities of Campaign Manager. The Search Ads 360 platform offers unified insights across the Google Marketing Platform stack, allowing you to measure and report on the data that matters most to you. One of the strongest features of the Google Marketing Platform stack is deduplicated conversion reporting across the media you buy within the Google Marketing Platform. This is a powerful feature that enables multi-touch attribution without the likelihood of redundant conversion reporting and it allows you to see how your paid search efforts contribute to overall success alongside of, and in combination with, programmatic buys, video advertising and rich media initiatives.

Partner integrations: The Search Ads 360 platform integrates with a range of partners, including Adobe and Visual IQ. It also has native integration with other Google Marketing Platform products, including Google Analytics 360 and the rest of the Google Marketing Platform ad tech stack.

Display & Video 360 features

Display & Video 360 is an intelligent and automated media buying platform. Technically speaking, it’s a demand side platform, or DSP that sits within the Google Marketing Platform. It’s where you go to execute programmatic media buys across the Google advertising environment. It also gives you access to over 70 additional high-value inventory sources, including the Rubicon Project and a number of other inventory sources. 

High-value inventory: The high-value inventory available through Display & Video 360 means that you can reach well over 90% of the internet population and nearly 90% of all ad-supported connected TV households. You can buy this inventory in pure open auction in a real-time bidding fashion. You can also research and place negotiated deals directly through the platform—whether that be through private auction buys or direct buys with specific publishers. 

Audience targeting: The audience targeting features within DV360 are second to none. You can profile your own website audience or any seed list from your Floodlight-based audiences and Google Analytics 360-based audiences. You can create a profile within DV360 and then research the best third-party audiences to augment your data, as well as the best inventory sources to reach your desirable addressable markets. This is a really strong feature of the platform, which is a big upgrade from what you could do directly within the Google Ads Platform itself where you’re going to be limited to the Google Display Network. The kinds of targeting options that the Google Ads Platform facilitates within the DV360 environment include the expanded inventory, in combination with the targeting options available to you in terms of first-party and third-party audience segments and some of the Google audiences that you’re probably familiar with already. That’s a huge upgrade. 

Performance-enhancing automation: The ability to enter business goals for your campaigns and to allow the DV360 platform to use its machine learning algorithms to optimize your campaigns is a big upgrade—from going from Google Ads as a standalone to buying through the DV360 platform.

Access to major exchanges in SSP: DV360 accesses all of the major exchanges in SSP in addition to the Google Ad Manager inventory, including YouTube TrueView inventory, Rubicon Project, AppNexus, FreeWheel, PubMatic and Index Exchange. You have access to a much wider universe of advertising inventory through the DV360 platform—increasing your flexibility, reach and ability to tailor campaigns to your overall objectives. 

Additional audience targeting features: You may be used to audience targeting features available directly in the Google Ads platforms, such as remarketing lists, customer match lists, and Google affinity, in-market, and interest based audience segments.

You can access these same types of lists in DV360 as well. Like Google Ads, you can also publish your rich, behavioral segments directly from Google Analytics 360 to DV360, which creates streamlined workflows and allows you to efficiently target key 1st party audience segments in your programmatic buys.

DV360 can also target floodlight pixel based audiences from your shared Campaign Manager instance and offers direct integration with many enterprise DMP platforms as well.

If you have an Oracle BlueKai instance, for example, you can link your DMP directly to DV360 to use for activation. 

Campaign-based audiences are a powerful way to offer sequential or follow-up messaging to users that have engaged with a prior campaign message in some way.

DV360 also offers a large number of data partners who syndicate their audiences in the DV360 platform. This list includes LiveRamp, Dun & Bradstreet and Acxiom. These high value, highly curated audiences are available for targeting in your campaigns for a nominal CPM fee.

Campaign Manager 360 features

Campaign Manager 360 is an ad serving platform. It’s also the shared Floodlight, or tracking pixel configuration, for the Google Marketing Platform ad tech stack. The Floodlight configuration is used for both conversion tracking (i.e., lead and sales tracking), but also can be used for creating retargeting audiences, so you can create site-wide Floodlight Tags with custom variables and then segment those pixel-based audiences for retargeting purposes. 

Centralized data: Campaign Manager is a centralized data source for all of your paid media channels to provide deduplicated conversion tracking and a variety of different attribution reporting options such as frequency management, cross device and cross channel. It’s really the backbone from a data standpoint.

Reporting and dashboards: Within Campaign Manager, you will have access to reporting and dashboards that span the spectrum—from more traditional reach and awareness metrics to very detailed and granular conversion and attribution reporting. 

Data-driven attribution solutions: As mentioned previously, Google Ads is a consolidated platform for Google Search Ads data, plus some other inventory sources you have access to through that platform—such as YouTube campaigns, Google Display Network and Shopping Ads. When you layer in Search Ads 360, now you have cross-search-engine data—no longer just for the Google Ads environment, but Bing, Baidu, etc. With Campaign Manager, you have not only all of your paid search data here, you also have cross-exchange data for display and video. This opens up a bigger universe of multi-touch attribution to see how all of your paid media efforts are contributing to your business success. With the native integration with Google Analytics 360, now you have a full 360 view—including organic search, organic social, website, behavioral data and engagement metrics for your users as well as an even larger universe of multi-touch attribution.

Developing an ad tech strategy

So how do you develop an ad tech strategy or make the case for an investment in ad tech? It’s not about the size of your company. Ad tech investments scale best based on the complexity and sophistication of your marketing. Organizations that engage in continuous improvement and have exhausted current levers available directly within advertising platforms typically see benefits from ad tech investments. 

Keep in mind that these ad tech tools are enabling technologies. They don’t make bad companies good. They don’t make unrealistic business goals realistic, or poor user experiences into quality user experiences. Your brain is still the best ad tech tool in your marketing toolbox, so you definitely want to keep using that. The organizations that fare best are the ones that are committed to full utilization of data integration, activation strategies, testing and optimization platforms, along with strategic development of use cases that follow sound marketing and advertising principles.

Ad tech and data tools are not meant to be expensive collectibles. They work best when you jump in the seat and drive. Brands that come up with the best and most creative use cases for their technology investments are going to get the most value from  them. The Google Marketing Platform ad tech stack and the Google Marketing Platform ecosystem more broadly facilitate a great deal of integration—from your measurement and reporting to your testing and personalization, including your tag deployment and your marketing execution, whether that’s prospecting and awareness campaigns or highly-refined activation strategies for retargeting your site visitors and remarketing to your existing customers and leads.

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