Reaction: MEA Digital’s Ryan Sees Philosophical Challenge Ahead With Guaranteed Versus ‘Best Ad’ Placements

MEA asked ad industry executives: “What’s your take on Google announcing yesterday that it is now selling guaranteed ‘premium’ inventory from publishers on the Google Display Network?

Cathleen Ryan is Chief Results Officer, MEA | DIGITAL, partner of Arkitektive.

Google has been trying to figure out how the get their hands in the brand dollar cookie jar for a while. They have one of the most efficient marketing vehicles available, SEM, but have struggled to create/buy/develop products that attract big brand dollars consistently (eg, YouTube, Google Content Network, er, Display Network).

Google is likely hedging against a future where they get squeezed on the self-service side via DSPs (the democratization of ad buying that Google has tried to epitomize) by trying to finally grab brand dollars through reach and premium placements. If they could combine the big spends that have historically gone to portals (such as Yahoo that have commanded high CPMs for their heyday reach) with the efficiency and performance data that Google has become synonymous with, its a big win for them. Whether they can or not, we’ll see. They’ve spent a lot of time laying the groundwork, the ‘pipe’ if
you will, collecting a ton of small and medium publishers that simply
weren’t big enough for networks to work with. Combined with premium, big destinations sites, its a whole bunch of reach, which if you can guarantee to advertisers, certainly competes with the biggest online publishers and premium networks.

It gets a little tricky on the philosophical front though, something that Google seems to be struggling with over the last year or so. They seem to be at a bit of crossroads when it comes to who they are, what they stand for, who they partner with, and what they do at their core. The idea of ‘preferred’ or guaranteed placements is something that runs a bit counter to their traditional advertising model of serving the best ad to the user, based on users’ previous actions, relevance, algorithms, etc. As an advertiser, this has led to a bit of a mystique and reverence (will google like it, will it rank, how much will I have to pay relative to my competitors). This new model may have an unintended side effect of exposing the wizard for what it is, a profit-motivated corporation that is more interested in ‘doing no harm’ to stockholders than to actual users. Its quite possibly leads down the road of a two tier ad platform – the first tier being advertisers big enough to afford these premium, guaranteed placements that require working through a dedicated GDN rep (which you don’t get at small budgets), and the second tier, which is the small to medium businesses that can’t afford to play when minimums and commitments are involved, but still value the self-service model google provides. If so, can Google prosper playing both sides of the field…being the champion of the little guy through SMB coupons and vouchers to harness of the power of internet advertising, while also courting big brand dollars for a portal-like reach that these same little guys simply cant access or afford?

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