The advertising policies are more nuanced because ads and commerce are tying Google properties together.
Google announced a suite of new shopping-focused ad formats earlier this week that target inventory across YouTube, Maps, Gmail and Discover, Google’s mobile search feed, thereby giving the company a more cohesive media offering.
This month, Google introduced an auto-delete option for user location data that was jointly announced by the Search and Maps groups, as well as new user data controls for the Google Chrome browser.
Those changes are driven by other platform teams, such as Android and Chrome, but are informed by ads and commerce, which understands how policy changes impact monetization.
For instance, browser cookies don’t get a lot of love from users, but Raghavan said that user feedback to the ads and commerce group demonstrates that when people are happy with their browser experience it often actually ties back to a cookie. Say a user forgets the product they were looking for or they had an easy experience booking tickets to a show – cookies can be helpful.
The “platform teams have to compete in their markets,” Raghavan said, “so if they say they need to do this or lose share,” then they go ahead and make the policy and then advertising simply has to adjust.
Most of the nitty-gritty policy work is internal, since it focuses on user experience across different properties. Take the Chrome team or Maps group, which work with ads and commerce to thread the needle on monetization, but ultimately need to respond to user demands for privacy protection.
Even within the ads business, policy discussions don’t center on revenue. Raghavan said he thinks of privacy and policy costs in terms of “engineer years” and other demands on the workforce, not in terms of ad revenue losses.
But it’s the ad group that takes the external brunt of dissatisfaction when policy changes impact brands or the digital media ecosystem at large.
This is most apparent in Google’s extended product and policy testing periods, such as with changes to its auction pricing dynamics, its decision last year to restrict the Google ad server ID – a policy that is live in Europe, but whose global rollout has been pushed back from this year to, likely, 2020 – and with Ads Data Hub, the cloud-based data product that’s been in beta since 2016.
“Would I have liked to be able to say January 2020 we flip on all policy changes? Yes,” Raghavan said.
But timing formal policy changes, especially tying different policy changes together, isn’t feasible when each can put its own demands on hundreds or thousands of varying backend Google services. Making a small change, like, say, how long a Chrome cookie can be retained, is an “immensely tedious process” when you consider the number of places that data is piped, he said.
“It behooves us to do these experiments, even if some linger longer than we’d like,” Raghavan said. “We’re not in the position of letting the ‘perfect’ be the enemy of the ‘good.’”