Google Accepts Ad Tags in Push for Brand Dollars

Agencies have long complained about Google’s closed approach to other ad systems, but now the search giant will accept ad tags from third parties. Opening the system could help Google attract more brand ad dollars in its battle against Yahoo, AOL’s and others. But there’s one gaping hole in Google’s third party ad serving roster: Atlas, a product of aQuantive, owned by rival Microsoft.

Advertisers that run ads through Google’s AdSense content network in North America now can serve them through Google’s DoubleClick system, as well as Valueclick’s Mediaplex platform. The AdSense network also enables tags from rich media ad firms Eyeblaster, EyeWonder, Interpolls, PointRoll and Unicast, and from research firms Dynamic Logic, IAG Research, InsightExpress, and Factor TG.

Although Google’s list of accepted tags includes the big players in rich media and online ad research, “The ad serving looks a little light because it doesn’t have Atlas,” said Eric Frenchman, chief Internet strategist for consulting firm Connell Donatelli. Still, he thinks it will make things easier for advertisers and agencies when it comes to campaign optimization and reporting. “I think it’s actually good news,” he said.

“Google is actively working with Atlas as a potential certification partner,” Senior Business Product Manager Rajas Moonka told ClickZ News.

Andreas Roell, president and CEO of agency Geary Interactive said the Google announcement is “a step in the right direction,” and sees promise in the new ability to run all sorts of rich media creative. “But the proof comes in how it’s actually being executed,” he continued.

Until today, ads served by Google on other publishers’ sites have been text-based units or standard display formats, limiting advertisers’ ability to take advantage of more interactive ad options when buying through Google. The restrictive system also prevented advertisers from employing tracking, reporting and research technologies they had grown accustomed to using when buying on sites like MSN, Yahoo, AOL, and ad networks.

Jupiter Research Senior Analyst Emily Riley believes the decision has its roots in Google’s DoubleClick purchase. It behooved Google to accept ad tags from its own service, particularly when it comes to data-related possibilities, she said.

“I think from Google’s perspective, it’s really going to be about the data they can glean.” Although Google won’t store the data associated with those outside tags, Riley suggested, “it would enable them to offer new things to their clients because the data can all be consolidated,” said Riley, noting things like behavioral targeting might now be available. “It’s good for Google to have display data connected to search data�. They get a larger piece of the pie from a top down campaign perspective.”

Google’s Moonka called the change “a foundational element to our display strategy,” hinting new ad capabilities could be enabled in the future as a result of the system exposure.

Some advertisers, especially brand advertisers and their agencies, have disregarded Google AdSense because it was inefficient for them to maintain a separate report from Google. In the past, Geary Interactive’s Roell hesitated to run AdSense campaigns because the need to use different platforms caused headaches. His use of Google in conjunction with third party systems depends on how easy it is to implement technically, he said. For instance, additional coding or incompatible reporting could be deterrents.

As Google has pushed for more brand ad dollars in its battle against Yahoo, AOL’s and others, insisting on a closed system seemed shortsighted to some. Google last year told ClickZ News in order to assure an optimum experience for users, advertisers and publishers, it “serves all ads that run on and the Google content and search advertising networks. We allow for third-party click-tracking, but not serving at this time.”

Outside ad tags weren’t accepted in the past because the company wasn’t able to review the ads for compliance. Now Google said it can ensure that ads associated with certified vendors meet its standards.

In addition to appeasing advertiser demand for more optimization and reporting efficiency, Google could benefit from accepting third party tags. According to Moonka, Google “has a history of only getting credit for click conversions.” Now we “can compare ourselves more on an apples-to-apples basis to other ad buys.” For instance, advertisers can now learn when a Google ad leads to conversion not associated with immediate click-through, something measured by DoubleClick’s view-through metric. Or, brand advertisers “can measure on brand effectiveness metrics,” added Moonka.

“[Google is] extending an olive branch to brand focused advertisers for once,” said Riley.

Roell sees Google’s decision as a strategic one. “Google realizes, more from a business strategy standpoint, they can’t play on their own anymore,” he said.

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