Commentary

TubeMogul Campaign Says Working With Google Ad Stack Not In Advertisers' Best Interests

TubeMogul’s “Manifesto For Independence” campaign taking Google to task certainly packs a punch. At the heart of the campaign, which broke on Monday, TubeMogul asserts that Google doesn’t play fair with marketers, maintaining the search giant has a “conflict of interest” and “misaligned business objectives.”

Simmering beneath the surface is TubeMogul’s concern over Google’s decision last August to limit the number of ways that advertisers can buy inventory on YouTube. At the end of 2015, Google announced that marketers could no longer buy YouTube ads via the DoubleClick Ad Exchange. Since January, marketers have had to buy YouTube inventory directly through Google’s sales force, its DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM) or Google AdWords.

One could argue that this meant TubeMogul and other players of its ilk went from being depended upon as key agency planning tools, to being hamstrung in their ability to execute a major portion of many media plans: buying YouTube inventory.

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“The motivation for this campaign is to call attention to a pattern of Google decisions that are patently not in the interest of advertisers. They include blocking third-party ad-fraud reporting, not letting people take their data unless it’s using Google’s DMP, and restricting third-party reporting for viewability,” said Keith Eadie, TubeMogul’s Global CMO.

"From a purely objective perspective, it’s clearly not in advertisers’ best interests, it’s in the best interest of Google,” Eadie added. “There are inherent  conflicts of interests any time you have a buying platform representing and purchasing media that’s also owned by the same entity.”

Eadie said that the intent of the campaign is to show advertisers that working with the Google ad tech stack is not in their best interests -- and they should be asking some tough questions of Google to uncover why. “We’re happy if this campaign benefits anyone who has standards of independence in the ad-tech ecosystem,” Eadie said.

Others have a different take: “TubeMogul is pissed about the decision to have YouTube inventory sold only on Google’s platforms,” said Sam Cox, vice president of global partnerships at MediaMath. “They’re likely seeing an impact on their revenue.”

When Eadie was asked what percentage YouTube inventory comprised for TubeMogul since year-end 2015, he said it was “immaterial” -- but the number was in the low single digits and had been much higher in 2013 and 2014. “We were great partners with YouTube at that time. We’re strong partners with Google’s Ad Exchange, which we will still buy,” Eadie said.

Cox said Google's change has irritated advertisers and other industry stakeholders, but that it’s Google’s prerogative as a publisher to sell YouTube inventory through its own platforms, which enables it to keep strict controls over the quality of the consumer experience. “DoubleClick Bid Manager has a massive set of controls to ensure that users have a positive experience,” Cox said.

TubeMogul’s two-month multimedia anti-Google campaign, which includes outdoor advertising in New York and San Francisco, seems to sum up how a lot of marketers, ad tech companies and agencies feel about the search giant’s “walled garden” ad business.

The key takeaway from the campaign is that Google uses its scale to force brand marketers to make ad buys using its technology. Some marketers say that Google makes it challenging for marketers to use their own data and ad tech vendors, or in some cases, their own ad tech. They say Google then forces them to use preferred partners to track campaign performance and prevent ad fraud.

“We took a lot of confidence in running a campaign like this based on decisions Google was making. If we can illuminate these decisions more broadly and educate advertisers and why Google operates the way it does, then it’s a useful effort,” Eadie said.

“As a buy-side-only company, we only align ourselves with advertisers,” Eadie said. "We didn’t undertake this lightly. We wanted to strike a tone that was aggressive but also educational.”

For its part, Google’s Dec. 2015 blog post that announced its move, stated that as of year-end 2015, it would not longer support “the small amount of YouTube buying happening on the DoubleClick Ad Exchange.”

A Google rep said that at the end of 2015, YouTube opened up to three viewability vendors, and it wasn’t accurate to say “we’re not giving marketers choice.” Google Ad Exchange-certified external vendors are listed here.  YouTube-certified vendors are here.

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