From BackRub To DoubleClick: Google’s Path To Digital Marketing Behemoth

 In Archives, Paid Search

By Acronym Staff

290x175cvWhen Google began life as an alternative search engine, its business, initially dubbed BackRub—owing to its equating backlinks to site relevance—wasn’t about display ads. Google didn’t like them. Still doesn’t—on its own home page, that is.

But its 2008 purchase of an early application service provider called DoubleClick has showered the World Wide Web with ads, for better or worse for mankind. Along the way, Google became the world’s largest digital marketing company.

Not bad for an alternative search engine.

Few people recall the uproar over Google’s intention to scoop up DoubleClick in 2007, a deal that then-dominant tech companies like Microsoft denounced as anticompetitive. Google’s response: Yes, we’re big in search ads, but we’re not big in the ad-serving business.

With the benefit of 100% hindsight, gotta give the naysayers some credit.

Less than a decade later, Google is the main pipeline for most forms of Internet advertising. Not only does it own desirable ad-supported content platforms like YouTube, via its technology holdings it acts as a gargantuan toll collector for media buys as well. Google’s position is that its various silos working together seamlessly make things more efficient for advertisers. Either way, it’s still a service that’s completely free to users, about two-thirds of whose queries on a worldwide basis are informational/navigational as opposed to transactional.

Google’s 2014 deal with global CPG marketer Mondelēz International provided a reminder of the power of DoubleClick and Google. As related by Digiday, Mondelēz struck a deal to help it reach consumers in Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America via DoubleClick Ad Exchange, AdMob (Google’s mobile app ad network) and Waze, the navigation app that Google purchased in 2013. Mondelēz had been using independent demand-side platform TubeMogul for its YouTube purchases of TrueView ads, but Google was pushing for those buys to be routed through DoubleClick Bid Manager.

Although Google disputed parts of Digiday’s reporting, particularly with regard to the prices Mondelēz would pay for TrueView ads, there seems to be no dispute that, while TubeMogul was able to retain some of the Mondelēz business at the outset, DoubleClick would gain more in the future.

The digital ink was hardly dry on the Digiday story when Twitter announced in April 2015 that it was partnering with DoubleClick to give advertisers on Twitter the ability to track conversions that result from user views and other actions. It was a bid to light a fire under Twitter’s revenues by providing marketers with enhanced direct-response capabilities.

Two months later, DoubleClick revealed native ads for apps for its publisher clients. Instead of serving a static banner ad, Dart For Publishers delivers ad components (headline, image, links, etc.) to a publisher’s app where they’re rendered into a native ad defined by the developer’s code.

The hits just keep on coming.

Right now, Google is in a league of its own. Putting aside its tech stacks, the company continues to win because it eventually figures out and masters the right products at the right time for advertisers. Note the word “eventually.”

Take YouTube. When first acquired, its mix of squirrels on skateboards alongside humans-doing-stupid-things-on-video relegated it to being a low-CPM minefield for courageous advertisers. Thus the quality of its audience was assumed to be as attractive as the squirrels and two-legged dumbos that dominated its fare.

But Google was able to discern, among other things, that the attractiveness of video done correctly could unleash a gusher of ad dollars from marketers’ robust television budgets. And that’s exactly what has happened. It took several years, but the company pivoted from sketchy one-off videos and spawned its now ubiquitous channels. Those channels—whose top brand participants for uploading their own videos include Coca-Cola, Disney and Samsung—now attract some 73 million very engaged and desirable subscribers, according to video marketing firm Pixability.

If you dig into the drivers of media brand selection among advertising decision makers, you find that Google brands are always in the top tier for things like audience, cost/price, ad results, image/environment and value for money, according to research firm Advertiser Perceptions.

All this from a search engine whose founders “hated” advertising on the Internet.