Google Is Pushing Cookies Harder Than A Dealer On Sesame Street

By Advertising No Comments

So far this August Google has made two major public statements concerning cookies, the packets of data websites often place on someone’s web browser for ads tracking and feature customisation. First announcing, plans for a “Privacy Sandbox” a magical privet world, that for some reason must involve cookies. And also releasing a report stating that “blocking cookies materially reduces publisher revenue. Both of these claims by Google appear somewhat reasonable on their surface, but become a bit suspicious with any real scrutiny.

Google’s apparent goal of the so called privacy sandbox is to develop standards to at least partly restrict fingerprinting, but still keep cookies around, because, well.. ads targeting. A blog post by Google’s Justin Schuh says:

“Technology that publishers and advertisers use to make advertising even more relevant to people is now being used far beyond its original design intent – to a point where some data practices don’t match up to user expectations for privacy.” This is fair, but the post goes on to say that “large scale blocking of cookies undermine people’s privacy by encouraging opaque techniques such as fingerprinting.” saying that “With fingerprinting, developers have found ways to use tiny bits of information that vary between users, such as what device they have or what fonts they have installed to generate a unique identifier which can then be used to match a user across websites. Unlike cookies, users cannot clear their fingerprint, and therefore cannot control how their information is collected. We think this subverts user choice and is wrong.”

While it is true that fingerprinting isn’t well understood by average web users, it’s laughably farcical to say that cookies improve users privacy. Writing for Freedom To Tinker security researchers Jonathan Mayer and Arvind Narayanan highlight just how disingenuous the arguments put forth by Google are. If the researchers seem less trustworthy than Google, maybe NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s belief that ad blockers do enhance your privacy will resonate with you.

It’s true as Google points out advertisers want to know that advertising leads to more business. Having managed many millions of dollars in digital advertising specifically on Google it’s really nice to show a report with conversion data. Due to tracking, digital ads reporting is far less labor intensive than radio, tv, and print where you have to examine sales lift in a region, and use a mix of offer codes, and tracking numbers to show success.

However, Google’s claim is that without the benefits of cookies publishers, not just advertisers are harmed. Saying that revenue for publishers from users without cookies enabled on the browser is decreased by 52% on average. This is contested by another study that reports revenues for publishers are hardly impacted by the presence of user cookies.

The methodologies of the studies aren’t clear enough for me to do a head to head comparison, but Google desperately needs cookies for it’s ad tech. I may sound bitter when I say Google has increasingly been using technolagy to remove the job of ads managers. Nearly every update in features for Google Ads makes the automated campaign optimization better while removing some of the ability to manually optimize advertising. The result, like a camera manufacturer who removes manual settings, but improves auto focus is a better average, but fewer outlying top performers.

I do understand the concerns around fingerprinting, but cookies are a part of a digital fingerprint. I also understand the business need for ads to show results, my company is Push ROI. but my perception of Google’s claims is that they are pushing cookies harder than a dealer on Sesame Street. I have to assume the reason Google has taken a substantially different stance about what leads to privacy online is because that is what benefits Google the most at this time.

Mason Pelt is the Founder and a Managing Director of Push ROI. 
 Follow him on his blog.

Why eSports Needs Real Content Marketing

By Advertising, Gaming, Social Media

eSports seems to be coming of age in 2018. Overwatch league claims they beat Thursday night football ratings and Ninja (with the help of Drake) broke the largest concurrent viewer record on with 626,000 viewers. This year eSports is earning a lot of hype; but is the hype keeping consumer attention?

In Dallas, Texas, we’ve seen massive growth in eSports. Four teams made the DFW metroplex their home base this year. But after the inaugural Overwatch League season ends, and the venture capital money runs out in a few years what will happen? Most of the marketing I’ve seen are “flash in the pan” spikes of exposure. Bursts of marketing success often gain attention in the short term and fail to grow a brand outside of their industry. I fear that most of these organizations will die without consistent, and authentic content.

The Dallas Fuel, our local overwatch team, put up a billboard around the corner from their office. They used it to push social media engagements with a contest on Twitter.

Looking at the hashtag on Twitter, it seems they earned a bit of momentary engagement. I’m sure they use other marketing as well, but I haven’t seen much of it. Billboards, even without the added social push, still work. And, gamers are a large enough market segment for outdoor advertising to be effective. But without an ocean of content to drive people to, I’m not sure any long-term impact will come from this ad.

Content Marketing Creates Long-Term Exposure

Optic Gaming does a very good job of creating a content ocean. Putting out a variety of video content across social media from their Podcast to their weekly vlog series called “Vision”.  Ryan Musselman, SVP of Infinite Esports Entertainment (formerly the president of Optic Gaming), said this during a panel discussion regarding content:

“It’s mission critical. It’s a part of their DNA, and it has to be from day 1… we as an organization did not start out in eSports. We started out with content, and we did that on purpose. Because when you build a brand the audience tends to follow… So we built a content company first and then backed into eSports, and that’s why we have a brand that can rival, at least on Twitter, the Dallas Cowboys.”

You can watch the full video here:

Optic famously has the largest social media following in eSports, and they’ve built it by putting out consistent content to their audience. Building a consistent audience has attracted sponsors like Chipotle, and Brisk Ice Tea. From my perspective, it seems Optic is less focused on winning trophies & prize money, and more on partnering with sponsors that will spend millions more then any esports organization can win in a season.

Long-Term Exposure Creates Diehard Fans

Advertising when done correctly creates awareness and drives conversions. However, the diehard fans required for a sport’s league most often come from long-term exposure. Advertising is an inefficient way to create long-term exposure, it’s far better to use advertising to drive people to an ocean of content, and let the content create a lasting affinity.

For Coca-Cola the most recognizable global brand, it’s not just advertising, but the memories of seeing, and consuming an ice cold coke that creates brand affinity. You’re more likely to remember being a kid drinking a coke with a grandparent than the last commercial you watched, but seeing that commercial increases the likelihood you’ll drink a coke today.

The NFL  does advertise, but it’s the nearly 100 years of history that create the massive brand affinity. Literal generations of memories of tuning in to games. Many have/had high school daydreams of one day playing for their favorite team. For eSports to reach the level of the NFL in a digital age (when even teams in the NFL are producing a lot of online content), it will take more than just the games in the league. It’s going to take a lot of content that people want to watch to reach that level of cultural recognition.

Diehard Fans Lead To Advertisers

For eSports, advertising can drive exposure to a new audience, and content can create brand affinity. The already large audience of eSports means the focus should be on improving brand loyalty, making eSports attractive to advertisers. Because right now eSports is undervalued. Last year at VidSummit I asked Garyvee about eSports, his response:

“From a marketing standpoint, I think it’s grossly underpriced attention and brands should spend a fuckload more money on esports.”

On this Garry and I agree. The prescription for eSports is not only to maintain their size but grow, and become more valuable to advertisers. The only path I see for eSports to take a place among existing major sports is with content marketing.

Header Image – creative commons by steelseries

Joshua Wethington was a Managing Director of Push ROI.  

AdWords AI Will Auto-Generate Then Auto-Launch Fun New Ads

By Advertising

In late April Google will start offering (forcing) a new tool letting artificial intelligence generate ads in your AdWords account. The really fun part; once these ad recommendations appear, you’ll have 14 days to dismiss them before they become active by default. So, look forward to seeing text ads generated by an AI’s best guess at improving your campaigns.

Granting that Google will build these new ads using information from existing ads, landing pages, site descriptions, and other relevant data it is likely the ad will be at least somewhat on target. However, the sophistication of the AI does not diminish the concern many ad managers (including our team) feel about Google automatically creating and launching ads with no human oversight.

Adwords Already Uses AI for Keyword Suggestions

AI generated lists of suggested keywords are a long time feature of Adwords. Many advertisers are accustomed to seeing notifications pop up suggesting you add a fairly huge number of mostly irrelevant keywords to your campaigns with a single click. These suggested keywords generated by AI often miss the mark, turning the time-consuming task of keyword research into a high-speed, money burning exercise. Admittedly this tool has become smarter over the years but is still a great way to quickly target a completely irrelevant audience.

At least suggested keywords require manual approval. By default with this new feature, ad managers will need to disarm the unknown AdBomb cooked up by the AdWords AI, or it could be explosive. Remember that could be good or bad, we have no idea what will happen. Not knowing how the AI comes to its conclusions, or what it’s track record is gives me pause. Also, Google isn’t paying for any poor choices made by it’s AI, so the AdBomb joke is starting to sound better (or worse) the more I think about it.

Although it may feel like Google is springing this on the public out of nowhere, this program has been in testing since January of 2017 in one form or another. In its earliest stages, the program was called “Ads Added by AdWords,” — these ads were created by humans. The study was trying to prove if additional ads could help ad groups in the majority of circumstances. Once the answer was a resounding yes, the team had to scale the program via machine learning. This lead to the program to its fully automated state that it is in today. How smart the machine has become is now the question to be answered.

How to Disable the AdBomb

Although accounts will default to automatically launching the ads every 14 days; it is possible to opt out of this feature in account settings in both the standard AdWords and from a manager account (this will opt out for all managed accounts).

Jon Norwood is a Managing Director of Push ROI.