Google drops AdWords, DoubleClick

Tue, 10/07/2018 - 09:00

To a collective yawn from all but its most dedicated of followers, Google announced in late June 2018 that it was rearranging its furniture. No, this wasn’t a response to Apple’s move to a new HQ with its fancy cancer-defeating standing desks; it was a rebranding exercise.

Folded into

From July, Google has retired AdWords and DoubleClick. The former becomes Google Ads while DoubleClick (which has flavours for both agencies and publishers) will be folded into Google Marketing Platform and Google Ad Manager.

While the dry nature of the headline announcement received little media exposure, the move should be of interest for anyone with more than a passing interest in the future of marketing. On the one hand, Google is recognising that its core business — AdWords — has become difficult to use. That hampers its ability to squeeze yet more money out of the mittelstand, the core group of small-to-medium-sized businesses on which the global economy is based. At the same time, it’s seen an opportunity to change DoubleClick, its enterprise business, into a much-broader marketing technology platform. Martech is flavour of the moment; last year, marketers put 22% of their budgets into tech systems that will (hopefully) improve their ability to build lasting relationships with their customers. More on its ambitions on this space in a moment.

When Google launched AdWords in 2000, it had roughly 350 advertisers which ran basic text ads against desktop search queries. Move forward the best part of two decades and millions of advertisers spend billions of dollars through it each year.

Monsters, Inc

To encourage them to spend more, Google’s added new features. In doing this, it’s created a monstrously complex beast with a confusing array of ad formats, ranging from the original text to shopping and from display to video.

These are flighted on a massive inventory that includes its primary search engine, its YouTube video channel, Gmail, Maps and a bunch of partner sites and apps. With so many formats, channels and audiences, AdWords campaigns can be tweaked in a multitude of different permutations. Which means you need a degree in stats and the patience of Job to configure the damned thing.

Digital unicorns

Popularity and complexity mean one thing. Skills shortage. And it’s not just a South African thing. Search job portals all over the world for digital marketing roles and you’ll see that the most in-demand vacancies are for paid-media campaign managers. Decent ones are as scarce as unicorns.

So, Google’s taken some steps to address this. As well as improving the platform’s UX — long a sore point for its users — the all-new Google Ads will incorporate machine learning to automate the production of ad creative, its targeting and delivery. Indeed, this will now be the default setting for all new advertisers.

Despite this, agencies like mine will still be looking for those darned unicorns!

Martech ambitions

For enterprise customers, Google had noticed that many of its larger corporate users were using APIs to pull together data from DoubleClick and its Analytics 360 platform, which operated as silos. Its own data showed that advertisers which integrated their analytics with their media platform got better results, so unifying the two into Google Marketing Platform made perfect sense. But it also speaks to Google’s Achilles heel.

It’s built the business off the back of one good idea and a bunch of acquisitions. It’s bought more than 200 over the years — indeed, DoubleClick was a US$3.1bn purchase back in 2008. Integrating businesses into each other is tough so, to a large extent, Google’s let them be until it’s seen compelling enough evidence that there’s money to be made by pulling them together.

The explosion in martech spending has clearly jolted Google into action but whether it’ll be able to knit together a platform that can take on the likes of Adobe, IBM and Oracle remains to be seen.

*This article originally appeared on

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