Google VP Mohan Speaks Display Ads, Invite Media At Conversational Marketing Summit

Neal Mohan at CMSThe Conversational Marketing Summit continued for a second day at the Hudson Theater in New York City as Internet Week hurtled along.

In the late morning, “The Charlie Rose of New Media” – a.k.a. Federated Media‘s John Battelle – proceeded with his long list of interviewees as Google VP of Product Neal Mohan became his latest contestant.

Battelle hit just about every topic possible in 25 minutes which helped provide a good topline on Google strategy – at least as good as you’re going to get in a public forum.

To begin, Mohan addressed the $200 billion number his company sees for display “in a few short years” saying, “Display means all formats and channels where the advertising is associated with content”: video, mobile, graphical display, IPTV, tablets, etc.

Mohan believed “branded dollars” coming to this $200 billion bucket would be both digital native and TV dollars coming over to digital and he addressed the importance of audience buying, data and real-time decisioning adding that Google’s vision is not just top of funnel dollars – ironic in that Google’s core ad business is search and bottom-of-the-funnel.

Looking at today’s disparity between time spent with online media versus offline media, Mohan said he saw a $50 billion gap meaning -he thinks online should be $75 billion today not $25 billion and attributed the challenges created by media fragmentation, its friction and the “deterioriaton of ROI” to the reason for the significant lag.

Battelle continued with the televison theme and asked – besides the $.02 in TV versus $.28 on the dollar in digital which is needed to facilitate the execution of a campaign – people and relationships are important in TV. He asked how Google would address that need given their technology position. Mohan responded that he saw his company building tools that enable the creation of ideas by people – and eliminating the busy work in between. His view is that technology isn’t there to take the place of humans but eliminate things that keep everyone from adding value like creativity. I wonder what certain members of the agency are thinking?

Battelle brought up that Facebook has 1 in 4 display ads on the web and if that concerned Mohan. It did not appear to as he thought many participants could play in the display worlds as long as it served consumers, etc. Mohan also expanded a bit on Google’s social strategy saying there wasn’t one simple, social strategy and he said the company is focused on making their consumer-oriented products more personalized – Gmail, Docs, etc.

Questioned if he could see marketers someday using Facebook data to buy media through Google’s advertising and products, Mohan said they were an “open” system and pointed to DoubleClick Ad Exchange – and as long as partners adhere to rules around transparency it’s ok. – Hmm. That’s still potentially a big roadblock. Google needs to see who the advertisers are – to date, no intermediaries are allowed. They may be “open,” but, you, the intermediary need to show your hand. The thought by big competitors, of course, is that they’re clients will be stolen as Google tech and effort takes over.

Regarding mobile, Mohan talked about complicated building blocks that are being assembled and that everything is going well with 2.7 billion mobile impressions pulsing across application inventory each day. Battelle asked about Apple’s iOs and impression breakouts there – Mohan only offered that they’re in the iOs (Google ads show up on apps or websites that you can see on the iPad for example) This is another great way for Google to keep tabs on the competition – this time, Apple.

Audience questions came next for Mohan.

He spoke enthusiastically about the impact of the Invite Media acquisition given the roughly one-year anniversary of the purchase:

“Invite Media has been one of the fastest growing acquisitions that Google has ever made. I’ve been in the display industry business (…) since the mid-90s and I have never seen a technology ramp up as fast as real-time bidding.

We just did a survey and found that 88% of our advertisers – from the biggest brand advertisers in the world to direct response advertisers – say that they are going to do some form of real-time bidding this year. That number only continues to grow month on month. We’ve doubled the investment. We haven’t talked about it before but we are going to go fully global with that platform as we rewrite it on Google technology. And we’ve doubled the number of customers while we’ve grown 175-200%. (…)

So we’re very happy with that growth. And it really speaks to what I mentioned before, advertisers, again, have the same objective for finding the right audience. If we can help them – advertisers do that on the Internet in a much more effective, real-time fashion through tools like Invite -then that’s going to be successful.”

In that Mohan said the platform is “going fully global,” it sounds as if this is happening this year and that DoubleClick For Advertisers (DFA) integration with Invite may be happening, too, in the same time frame as DFA gets “Invite-d” and makes it easier for DFA customers to buy through Invite.

In regards to a question about the impact of the recently announced “+1” widget for publishers on display advertising, Mohan was less direct:

“On ‘+1,’ as many of you know, we announced the ability to ‘+1’ search results as well as ‘+1’ some search ads a few weeks ago and at that time we mentioned that we would be rolling it out across the Internet to our publishers. We did that a couple of days ago. We’re very happy with the initial results of that. It’s still too early to talk about specific numbers of publishers or domains or what have you given that it’s only been a few days, but the initial results look quite good.

All I would say there about ‘+1’ is that it’s really really early days. The vision, of course, is to incorporate things like ‘+1’ interactions and the annotations that can be driven from that in multiple places – again back to this notion of making all of our products in some form social, and so you should look for more there in the course in the next several months.

Two things – Google isn’t ready to talk yet about the “signal” that is pouring off of these cookies (“+1”) that can not only inform search but affect display ad targeting at a minimum. Not sure they will discuss this anytime soon. But, imagine using that “+1” data for display targeting through Google Display Network or DoubleClick Ad Exchanger. For now, the company positions the signal as part of a social strategy that helps personalize and create a better experience for the end user.

Finally, Google’s foray into television came up and yielded a response from Mohan on upfront buying and how Google will enter that world in some way. Mohan said there’s still room for improvement for cross-channel measurement and “measuring apples-to-apples” – as in what incremental benefit did the buyer get from by buying display online and TV.

The attribution “Holy Grail” continues to be a hot topic.

By John Ebbert

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