Acquisition By Obscurity?

Data, data, data.

For the ten years I have managed paid advertising online, that has been the mantra - the superpower.

But lost in the buzz of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we have perhaps overlooked a very important casualty: data. One of the moment’s subtle storylines is the lack of data advertisers are getting from the big tech companies via their new products. And I’m not talking about Cambridge Analytica-type data. I’m talking about run-of-the-mill targeting data. Data that answers the question, “Where are our ads showing and why?”

The writing was on the wall with Google’s new ‘Smart’ Display & Shopping campaigns. Kirk Williams has documented his displeasure with Smart Shopping late last year. And this week, Ginny Marvin shined a light on more obscurity coming from Google’s soon-to-be-released Discovery campaigns:


Will the Discover feed be Google’s next cash cow? What advertisers are saying about Discovery campaigns | Search Engine Land

It’s still too early to know if the company, which watched Facebook’s News Feed ads skyrocket as Google+ fizzled in the last decade, has a mobile feed winner this time around, but advertisers who have been testing ads in the feed with new Discovery campaigns tell us they’re impressed with the initial results. The level to which the feed is actually driving that satisfaction is not entirely clear, however.

The hitch is there is no way for advertisers to distinctly target ads to the feed alone. Discovery campaigns are among the slate of Google’s machine-powered campaign types that run ads across multiple properties automatically. In addition to the Discover feed, Discovery ads serve in Gmail and on YouTube’s homepage. With that combined slate, Google says Discovery ads can reach a universe of “hundreds of millions” of people.

Advertisers said Discovery campaign results compensate for control and visibility limitations. “We are OK with the lack of channel reporting right now since the benefits outweigh the lack of transparency,” said Moses Chang, group media director at MMI Agency.

And there it is, the crux of the issue:

We are OK with the lack of channel reporting right now since the benefits outweigh the lack of transparency.

Having participated in a dozens of these private betas over the years, they almost always perform wonderfully while in beta. It’s a simple matter of supply & demand. But when the beta is opened to the public, the prices in auctions normalize. The balance of benefits and transparency becomes murkier. And advertisers like me want more transparency - more levers to pull in an effort to optimize the campaign for increased efficiency. More data.

I’ll pull out my crotchety old man persona for a moment, but I am bearish on how this will play out. For a decade, Google (specifically) was noble in prioritizing performance over their own profitability. But their actions in recent years have been far less noble. Look no further than those creepy “Google Reps” that call account owners to scare them into spending more, with little concern for performance.

But time will tell…

About price benchmarks for Shopping ads (beta) | Google Ads Help

This week we received a great new report for Google Shopping:

Price benchmarks for Shopping ads show, on average, how other merchants are pricing the same products that you sell. You’ll see a click-weighted average price for each product, which can help you understand the price at which other advertisers are successfully attracting clicks for a certain product.

Make sure you enable this feature for any clients who qualify.

In Google Merchant Center:

  • Growth
  • Manage Programs
  • Market Insights
  • Enable

Now, get your Google Shopping ads on Gmail, Discover, YouTube | Search Engine Land

Google is opening up more inventory to standard Shopping campaigns. Product Shopping and Showcase Shopping ads will be eligible to show on Gmail — as well as YouTube and Discover feed — starting the week of March 4 when those campaigns are opted into the Display Network, Google announced Thursday.


If your brand is considering TikTok, there is a lot you should know. More so than any network before it, TikTok has it’s own network-specific nuances that could make or break your efforts - not to mention flood your brand with ‘Ok boomer’ embarrassment.

Marketing Land has created a wonderful guide to get you up to speed. Before you take the plunge, do your homework.

TikTok 101: A primer for brands | Marketing Land

Teens see TikTok as a home for pure, unfiltered entertainment. Brands, on the other hand, are watching it like a shiny new penny. The platform known for hosting amusing video challenges inspired by the ephemeral (and often satirical) nature of Gen Z is now starting to become part of the marketing equation.

“Being there early allows brands to authentically tap into the ‘it-crowd’ as long as they can adapt their message to the fun and informal tone,” explained Fred Schonenberg, founder of New York marketing firm VentureFuel. But that informal tone, he explained, is TikTok’s entire value. “Brands who show up with standard corporate messaging will alienate the audience as quickly as they seek to be embraced.”

Facebook is developing shopping in the live stream |

Facebook is working to allow users to buy products directly while watching live videos.

YouTube kicked in $15 billion as Google ad revenues topped $134 billion in 2019 | Marketing Land

Google parent Alphabet finally broke out YouTube ad revenues, for the first time, in Q4 and 2019 full year earnings. Total Alphabet 2019 revenues reached nearly $162 billion. Google advertising revenues accounted for $134.8 billion, with YouTube contributing $15 billion for the year.

While earnings beat analyst expectations, fourth quarter revenues were lower than expected: $46.07 billion vs. $46.94 billion expected. In addition to YouTube, Alphabet announced that its Cloud business has a $10 billion run rate. As individual businesses, these revenues would be significant.

YouTube exceeds Amazon’s full-year ad revenues. Google, Facebook and Amazon are the top three digital ad platforms. However, Google’s $134.8 billion in 2019 ad revenue is nearly 2X Facebook’s ad revenue of $69.7 billion. And Amazon’s 2019 ad revenue of $14.1 billion is less than YouTube’s $15 billion.

The year startups took over the Super Bowl | The Hustle

If it sounds unusual, it wasn’t: Not that year, anyway. Eleven startups spent millions for 30-second spots in Super Bowl XXXIV.

The very next year, 8 of these 11 companies had either gone bankrupt or been sold in fire sales.

To be clear, the cost of these ads didn’t cause these companies to collapse (blame the dot-com bubble bursting for that).

But few startups before or since that year have placed such big bets on the Super Bowl. We couldn’t help but wonder: Why did so many startups throw Hail Marys back then?

🤷🏻‍♂️Just For Fun

How Apple Killed The Swiss Watch Industry | Forbes

In 2015, the year the Apple Watch was launched, LVMH watch division president and Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver said the Swiss industry was not afraid of Apple’s new product, because it could not be repaired in a thousand years or eighty years, nor inherited by children, nor would it ever become a status symbol. As is always the case when disruption occurs in an industry, traditional competitors are not able to see the threat, and continue to try to analyze it according to the variables that were important yesterday.

Hindsight is 20-20. But I am always fascinated by these types of stories - the lack of technical understanding and commonly the smugness that leads to blindness.


Questions, comments, inquiries? I’d love to hear from you -