Google Tests Audience Buying In ADH, A Big Step From Analytics To Activation

Google’s Ads Data Hub (ADH) started as a pure analytics and measurement service. But Google has been testing audience activation with a beta program for the past six months, according to AdExchanger sources who are in the program.

The beta program includes large brands and agencies, and is currently only open to select clients that have invested heavily in ADH. Display and Video 360, Google’s DSP, is the only ad-buying platform that can be connected with ADH audiences for campaigns.

The ADH-based ad campaigns only include non-Google properties. So the beta customers can buy on the open web, but not YouTube or Google Search.

Audience buying is a natural evolution of ADH, according to one brand marketer who is part of the beta.

“You’re creating segments within the platform that are ideal for targeting,” he said. Instead of only having cookie info – a user’s device, perhaps their location and a limited sense of previous sites they’ve visited – ADH segments are grounded with stronger audience data, since the segments are informed by a brand’s CRM or other first-party data and Google’s identity graph.

Right now, the ADH ad-buying tests only work well for companies with large first-party data sets in Google Cloud and integrated with ADH, so the marketer first-party data can sync with Google’s data set, said another agency exec involved in the beta.

Google doesn’t allow individual-level targeting in ADH (like how a brand might retarget a user who visits their site). Marketers using ADH don’t simply access Google audiences, but if they collect first-party data that matches to the Google graph, then their own audiences can be enriched with Google data. So brands need to be able to create large enough audience segments numbering hundreds or low thousands of users to create targeted audience segments in ADH (for instance, people in Austin who use grocery delivery).

One of the primary use cases for ADH audience activations is frequency management, said Hugo Loriot, managing director of the ad analytics consultancy 55, who’s been briefed on the beta program.

Cookies are far from a sure-fire tool for frequency capping, since people use different devices, different internet services and delete cookies, each of which can throw off frequency caps for an individual.

Deepening the Google relationship

Taking advantage of the beta means committing more deeply to the Google platform, said one agency exec.

Since Google’s identity data set informs the audience packages, the data can never leave ADH, or advertisers would be able to retarget individuals without consent. The ADH audience segments aren’t transferred from ADH to DV360 – it all happens within the platform.

That’s also why third-party DSPs are not part of the beta program. Ad servers like Sizmek and Flashtalking are ADH partners, because they integrate for analytics and measurement. But no outside DSPs are connected with ADH.

There aren’t specific policy or privacy restrictions that prohibit Google from syncing ADH campaigns with outside DSPs down the road, according to agency execs. And the same goes for media. YouTube and Search could theoretically be available for ADH-based campaigns, though Google hasn’t stated if this will happen.

“DV360 is the only DSP I expect ADH will ever integrate with,” according to an agency exec who’s tested the ADH and DV360 ad campaigns. “If exposing cookie-based IDs outside the walls is a nonstarter, Google certainly isn’t going to let other DSPs traffic campaigns informed by logged-in user data.”

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