Google’s Private Markets Give Brands More Reason to Buy Into Digital Ad Technology

Exclusive exchanges reshaping programmatic

Google's Neal Mohan says he wants technology to disappear. Now, that could sound odd coming from the search company’s ad tech chief, but he has a point, and it’s one that Google makes all the time— technology should remain hidden and function behind the scenes.

That’s how Google is helping brands think about digital advertising as it tries to attract bigger budgets. Marketers have been reluctant to go full-on programmatic, the automated buying and selling of digital ads, because they want more control over the timing and pricing of their campaigns, and they want more freedom of creativity than the banner ad can provide.

But programmatic advertising is starting to show a creative side, and that’s in large part due to private marketplaces that give publishers and brands the ability to customize and control the action.

“There is a sense that advertising technology and creative are at odds, but I don’t see it that way,” Mohan, Google’s vp of display and video ads, said. “Technology is something that should fade away and empower creative agencies to do what they do best: find ways to connect brands with consumers.”

Google DoubleClick Bid Manager’s volume doubled in the past year—mostly from brands embracing programmatic advertising. “There is more of a convergence of programmatic and brand building,” Mohan said.

Private marketplaces are attracting more brands into the technology-powered ad buying, according to industry watchers. This model, in which Web publishers and buyers set up a special relationship to sell ad space, employs the same technology that delivers ads through open exchanges. However, the marketers aren’t forced into auctions to compete for ad space.

“The folks that are doing it well are the ones going after ad budgets that are not available in the open auction markets,” said Qasim Saifee, svp of monetization at OpenX, an ad tech platform for publishers and buyers. “So publishers are talking to the buyers with brand-oriented dollars that are not going through open auctions”

In its latest forecast, eMarketer said this private model would take an ever-increasing share of programmatic ad dollars, accounting for $8.6 billion of the $20 billion industry in 2016.

Google is building private marketplaces for digital video, mobile and desktop. Brands—Tory Burch, Cadillac and CBS, among others—are setting up their own private marketplaces, Mohan noted, using Google to help connect with select publishers.

Programmatic advertising, until recently, was mostly used for direct- response marketing, but the private marketplaces and direct programmatic buying are changing that.

Also, advertisers can tailor how they measure private marketplace campaigns so they get data about ad recall and brand lift, which are not useful data in performance- based marketing that programmatic usually handles.

So, these brands are trying to get the benefits of programmatic advertising but maintain the control and creativity of direct relationships that have been part of the industry forever. Of course, not everyone is sold on advertising’s techno-creative future just yet. “Programmatic is coming up more and more with each of our clients,” said Azher Ahmed, director of digital operations at DDB Chicago. “But there’s still a lot of testing and learning that needs to be done.”