This may not strike the world as big news, but in the ad world, it’s important: Google today announced “Content Placement Reports”. Sounds boring, but stay with me here. (No links available for this yet, will update…)
What is it? From the announcement: In an ongoing effort to provide more transparency to advertisers, Google announced today the availability of a new AdWords report, called a Placement Performance report, which enables advertisers to see the exact sites on the Google content network where their ads appear. Placement Performance reports also provide site-by-site performance metrics – including domain, URL, impression, click, conversion and cost data – as well as aggregated metrics for traffic generated from AdSense for domain sites. With these reports, advertisers have much more visibility into their contextually targeted advertising spend and are able to leverage the information to more effectively optimize their campaigns and meet their objectives. Designed in response to advertisers’ requests, Placement Performance reports offer advertisers both increased transparency and greater control over their contextual advertising, which ultimately leads to more relevant ads for users.
In short, Google is dealing with what is known as the “blind network problem” – advertisers pour money into AdSense, and they get a sense of how the campaign performed in aggregate, but they have no idea which sites did great, and which sites did poorly, or often, even which sites they ended up on (unless they specified via the relatively new site specific buys on AdSense.)
This new set of reporting addresses this issue, allowing advertisers to determine where their campaigns are doing best, and then they can optimize accordingly. It’s a major step for Google, and it solidifies the company as the player to beat in third party ad networks. Does this have anything to do with the Doubleclick acquisition? Come on, is the Pope Catholic?
When AdSense launched, it was as a blind network that occupied the bottom of the value pyramid – it didn’t care where ads were placed, as it was driven purely by direct response (ie, did someone click on the ad or not?). An entire industry was born of this idea: Pour money in, get money back. Who cares where the ads show up, as long as they payoff?
Now Google will become far more driven by specific publishing sites – “we’ll help you find the sites where your ads do best, and help you target those sites specifically.” This in turn will help advertisers find the sites where response is greatest. However, direct response is not always the best measure of effectiveness. It works great for demand satisfaction, but it has nothing to do with awareness or demand creation. Those two key pieces of the marketing puzzle still require things that cannot be driven by algorithms – at least for now. Will Google get into the business of helping marketers craft campaigns for particular sites based on understanding the audiences at those sites? Until now, the company was not even close to that business. But with this business, it’s getting closer, and closer, to becoming what most of the world calls a content publisher. Interesting.
Update: Some reactions, coverage:
Update: Previous, related news from Yahoo.