Google’s $3 billion acquisition of the DoubleClick ad server business in 2007 was a massive home run.
But today, privacy regulations and changes to digital advertising have transformed Google’s ad tech unit.
Google’s original vision for DoubleClick, to combine tech with automation, is still a recipe for scale, because it minimizes hands-on service, said Clint Tasset, the CEO and founder of Adswerve, and a DoubleClick alum who spent two years at Google after the acquisition.
But the focus on platform automation means Google has cut down on the services-first model DoubleClick was known for. And Adswerve, a Google services partner, has staffed its ranks with numerous past DoubleClick hands and is looking to recreate DoubleClick’s services-first model on top of the Google platform.
Google has been steadily backing away from DoubleClick. The DoubleClick brand no longer exists, and mainstay DoubleClick vets like Brad Bender and Jason Bigler, who oversaw Google’s demand-side and supply-side products, respectively, have moved on after the better part of a decade. Bender went over to Google News, while Bigler left for a fin tech startup.
There was an opportunity to fill in the services, like agency onboarding and education, or building customized tools for the Google platform, that require more hands-on account management, Tasset said.
Sullivan, who served as head of industry for the Google Marketing Platform (GMP) before joining Adswerve, noted that Google “reached a tipping point” on issues such as privacy, regulations and automation after it consolidated many products and services into the GMP. Although the platform is popular and intuitive, it isn’t the same as an account team.
“Advertising technology people are being pulled to the media side or the cloud side, and there’s been a little bit of a loss of identity within the ad tech org,” Sullivan said.
Hiring execs away from Google is notoriously difficult, because startups can’t match the pay and benefits. It’s easy to end up in “golden handcuffs or velvet coffins,” Tasset said.
But Google-insider experience is becoming more valuable, and Google execs are getting wooed.
Adwserve isn’t the only Google services provider out there – it’s been a boom season for the category.
MightyHive was acquired a year ago for $150 million by Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital, and earlier this month Jellyfish raised an undisclosed sum from Fimalac, a French media and tech holding company that valued the Google agency partner at about $555 million.
Even “on the front lines” in agency holding companies (i.e. the people who handle pitches or deal directly with brand clients) there’s a need for platform tech training, said Lucinda Nieto, who joined Adswerve this month as a GMP sales specialist. Most recently, she was team lead for the Google team servicing Dentsu accounts, after joining Google via the DoubleClick acquisition.
New kinds of agencies are springing up, and old agencies are rolling up their sleeves on programmatic, Tasset said. Even the most familiar and expert agency trading desks are rethinking digital media strategies.
“The whole industry has changed rapidly and taken a step backward,” he said. “And people who lived the history have a better understanding of what forward looks like.”