How Google’s Ad Tech Stacks Up

DoubleClick, Mindshare execs discuss the end-to-end platform

These days online advertising and enterprise software giants like Google, Adobe and AOL are assembling ad tech stacks that span the full spectrum of online ad buying and selling from advertiser to publisher. Google officially announced its own last summer, dubbing it’s the DoubleClick Digital Marketing platform (DDM).

Conceivably the aim for any ad tech stack is to house as many ad dollars as possible within one platform. Performance-wise, the claim is that an integrated end-to-end solution leads to better results and fewer headaches—though that doesn’t mean there aren’t hiccups along the way.

Mindshare began using a few DDM pieces last October to better align with one of its big-box retail accounts, said Danny Huynh, the agency's managing director of digital and client leadership. The marketer had been noticing some discrepancies between its performance numbers and those the media agency reported.

“They were using [Adobe’s] Omniture SiteCatalyst at the time, so they swapped over to include Google  Analytics as a secondary site analytics platform to make sure the implementation with Omniture was correct and decrease discrepancies,” Huynh said. “That was really our trigger to start evaluating opportunities with DoubleClick.”

But why Google’s ad tech stack over Adobe’s?

“From our perspective, [DDM’s] strength in ad serving and being able to have more clout with networks and partners to get to work with them was an advantage to us because then we could work with more partners,” said Huynh.

Mindshare started out by using Google Analytics to align with its client's operations. Then, the agency began using DoubleClick for Advertisers (DFA) to use ad serving more broadly across its media partners and to ensure that trafficking was accurate, Huynh said. Mindshare also uses DDM’s demand-side platform, DoubleClick Bid Manager née Invite Media, as well as DoubleClick Search, both products being particularly important to the direct-response-minded retailer. But DFA, with its Path to Conversion reporting, may have been the most important DDM component Mindshare adopted.

“One of the most beneficial things that we pushed really hard to get … is the conversation around the path to conversion," Huynh said. "The journey for the consumer is so complex. We pulled a quarter’s worth of data to share with our clients and saw there were 50,000 different consumer paths before the conversion was made."

Since Mindshare began using DDM, the agency has seen a 70 percent drop in hours that its analysts spent reporting data, which enabled them to spend more time working with the media planners and buyers.

“It allows my team at Mindshare to become strategists versus reporting monkeys,” Huynh said. That’s particularly important as the retailer has continually decreased its ad budget year-over-year, forcing a greater focus on finding efficiencies. It has paid off. The retailer achieved a more than 25 percent higher return on ad spend compared with the previous year.

Mindshare is fairly typical in how it has adopted DDM, with DFA being a central component and not yet using all the pieces. DoubleClick’s head of sales Sean Downey said 85 percent of the top 200 advertisers in the market use one or pieces of DDM with “a high majority using two or three.”

For now the Achilles' heel of Google’s tech stack is beginning to show as more advertisers allocate money for social marketing and advertising. “One of the drawbacks [about DDM] is social media. That’s the missing component of this. Hopefully Wildfire [the social marketing software firm Google acquired last summer] is their solution,” said Huynh.

Downey described Wildfire as “still a new acquisition” and that Google is “still evaluation how best to” integrate it into the platform. “We’re hoping to have that sometime this year,” he said. “We need social is a big part of [the platform] and that we need social integration.”

Even after Google integrates Wildifire, however, its social abilities may still be lacking. One of the DoubleClick Digital Marketing platform’s tentpoles, Invite Media, is widely considered the largest DSP on the market, but lacks access to inventory that’s becoming more prized in automated ad buying circles: the Facebook Exchange (FBX).

Similar to how advertisers are able to retarget users online based on browsing behavior, FBX is the only platform that permits that retargeting through ads on Facebook. So, for a media buyer to retarget Facebook users, it has to work with one of the other buying platforms not owned by Google. For Mindshare, that’s Rocket Fuel, which the agency can use in addition to Invite without worrying about the two platforms creating duplication and leading Mindshare to bid against itself, Huynh said.

“The reality of Google, or DoubleClick, getting API token approval from Facebook is probably not going to happen,” Huynh said.

Downey tried to be gracious about the setback, acknowledging that sometimes inventory exists that Google can’t tap. “We encourage clients to have solutions that fit their needs,” he said.

If Google wanted to, it could discourage clients. It could engineer its platform’s components to not work well with other companies’ technologies. Of course that would make the platform’s pitch about removing headaches hypocritical and force advertisers and their agencies to make a choice potentially against Google’s favor. Mindshare, for one, is only partial to Google or another company if their tools and technology work how the agency and its clients want.

“What I would like to do is amplify this capability that DDM has uncovered for us [around real-time data on the conversion path], and if MediaMind or another platform has those capabilities, we would love to push innovations in that way,” said Huynh.