Battle rages on between Google and data management platforms

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Digital marketers take note. If you haven’t heard about the recent competition between Google and data management platforms (DMP), you need to catch up. The way you approach online advertising campaign could be affected by this head-to-head.

In October, Google began informing advertising technology partners it was going to begin more tightly enforcing one of its data collection policies. Google is going to restrict how DMPs are gathering user information when running campaign’s on its ad network. More specifically, Google is looking to restrict how DMPs use pixel tags with respect to certain ads. (For those unfamiliar with the term, pixel tags, also known as web bugs, refer to transparent, embedded images that are added to web pages. They allow the pixel’s owner to check if users have accessed their content, and can also inform advertisers how many times a specific user has seen their messages online.)

On Google’s support page, their rule for data collection states :

“You may use a cookie, web beacon, or other tracking mechanism to collect anonymous traffic data for purposes of aggregated reach, frequency and/or conversion reporting, provided you use a certified third party vendor for this purpose. Collecting impression-level data via cookies or other mechanisms for purposes of subsequent re-targeting, interest category categorization, or syndication to other parties on Google Display Network inventory is prohibited.”

Google is saying that by the end of March it’ll prohibit certain DMPs from using tracking pixels, unless they also own the demand-side platform (DSP) executing the transaction. That means a large number of standalone DMPs will be at a disadvantage.

What Does this Mean?

If Google begins restricting pixel firing, then standalone DMPs will be left with blind spots and lose insight into activity on the Google Display Network, which isn’t ideal for the companies they serve. Unless a solution is found, agencies won’t have as many choices in which ad tools they can use and won’t be able to gauge performance on Google sites with relation to non-Google sites. Without the ability to understand which users are seeing what, marketers won’t be able to properly cap how many times a certain consumer sees an ad, which could lead to substantial waste.

Another issue frustrating DMPs is the timeframe they have to work within. While many agree with the long-term strategy of Google’s plan (pixels have their limitations, like with mobile devices), they feel rushed. They only have a few months to make necessary changes and come up with viable solutions. Although Google is working with DMP representatives to find alternatives, like application program interfaces (API) that transfer data, vendors worry if these other options will provide the same amount of information and meet the same needs as tracking pixels.

In Google’s Defence

It’s only fair to point out this isn’t just Google flexing its muscles. There are two sides to every story, and Google still has some credibility in this debate. While some may look at this decision and accuse Google of making and enforcing a quick change in policy, you can side with Google and view this as the enforcement of an already existing policy.

Of course, Google is concerned with the user experience. After all, having people come back over and over again is good for business. Having so many pixels on the same webpage can slow down browsers, which is frustrating. However, slow load times are just the tip of the iceberg.

Google is far more concerned with with data leakage. Although data leakage is controlled contractually, having lots of pixels on a page tracking information makes enforcement that much more difficult. This is a problem for Google because data leakage allows advertisers to find an audience on Google sites, then buy the same audience elsewhere for less.

Moving Forward

It’s unclear what suddenly started the enforcement of this policy, but it likely has something to do with Google’s broader strategy around creating the next-generation of multi-device marketing tools. With improvements in cloud computing and mobile devices, consumers are constantly jumping from phones to tablets to televisions, so it’s important to have solutions that fit all of these devices.

Welcome to the next frontier of digital advertising. With growing competition from companies like Facebook, Google is looking to make the right changes in order to position itself as the industry leader.

Photo via paid service 123RF

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Rick Delgado

Rick Delgado

Rick Delgado is a business technology consultant for several Fortune 500 companies. He is also a frequent contributor to news outlets such as Wired, Tech.co, and Cloud Tweaks. Rick enjoys writing about the intersection of business and new innovative technologies
Rick Delgado

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