Commentary

Details Of Google Customer Match And Your Gmail Address

Remember the Gmail address you gave the clerk during checkout when making a purchase at Anthropologie, Bloomingdale's, or Williams-Sonoma? What about when financial institutions like Bank of America ask whether you want an email, printed receipt or both after each transaction? The reasoning for why you gave up that personal piece of information made you feel green. Not printing a receipt saves one more tree branch. Rids the world of one more piece of paper to decompose in a compost pile. Ah, but Google and brands had something else in mind.

Google's Monday announcement introduced us to the targeting platform -- Customer Match -- made up of first-party data from customers, like you and me, who gave up their Gmail address in the name of ecology. Advertisers now can upload the Gmail addresses into Google AdWords to target ads across search and YouTube.

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If you didn't catch the details in the original announcement, tune in. Google matches its first-party data about customers with the brands to find the Google IDs, which allows AdWords to target across platforms and devices with higher accuracy.

Businesses today collect contact data from as many as four channels, the most popular of which are point-of-sale and Web site, according to a report released from Experian Marketing Services Tuesday. More than 92% of companies collecting customer email addresses face challenges. Many times the emails are incorrect. It turns out that human error, 64%, is the the biggest contributing factor to managing the databases.

Some 52% of marketers are concerned about customer privacy control, 31% about linking customer information across the various channels used, and 20% of companies are concerned about the lack of infrastructure needed to collect data, according to the Experian study.

What about privacy implications? Matt Naeger, EVP of digital strategy at Merkle, began working on this project with a handful of clients earlier this year. He says Google took "a conservative approach" to not pass the Google IDs and actions back to the advertisers. They purge the data from their system every seven days.

"Google maintains matched addresses, but does not keep first-party customer data attached," Naeger says. "To do a lookalike model, they're looking at the Google Similar Audiences platform on Gmail and YouTube, but not yet search. They also don't allow advertisers to use third-party data."

Ah, but wouldn't you consider Google's data third-party? I asked Naeger, who chuckled at the question.

Google considers their data first-party. Combine that with the brand's first-party data. First-party data + first-party data = first-party customer data?

Naeger also says Google doesn't allow advertisers to model addresses offline and then identify emails of people who haven't given permission for the brands to advertise to them.

Google has been serving personalized search results for years. Now AdWords will serve personalized ads, but also will make sure consumers know why they will see the advertisement.

Kudos to Google, but the biggest problem with the advertising industry remains incompatibility in the name of market share and advertising share. I personally cannot see Google, Microsoft and Yahoo collaborating on a feature similar to this in fear one would steal market share and dollars from the others.

It would be in the advertiser's best interest to integrate this type of technology across all the email platforms. Walled gardens among platforms create a huge challenge for advertisers, although the companies claim they have the advertisers best interest at the core of their strategy.

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