What happened to DoubleClick?
Most marketers today use DoubleClick Campaign Manager (DCM) as their primary ad server for delivering ads and tracking ad exposure to conversion. The largest advertiser and most sophisticated advertisers relied on DCM data to do analytics, attribution, and media activation.
These advertisers would “data transfer” log-level data (the raw data for each impression rather than the aggregate data that hides user-level and impression-level information) to their data management platform, data lakes, and vendors that do analytics or attribution modeling.
In April, Google announced it will no longer allow data transfer of DoubleClick log-level data with IDs. This decision effectively destroyed most of the value of the log-level data exported from DCM because advertisers wouldn’t know who saw the ads but only how often an ad in total was served. DoubleClick could be used only to verify that the total amount of impressions bought were actually delivered but all the other powerful use cases like analytics, attribution, and data management would no longer be possible with DoubleClick data.
In June, Google announced it was sunsetting DoubleClick as a brand and folding everything under Google’s brand.
Enter Google Ads Data Hub
At the same time, Google pushed forward its own solution to this new problem for marketers — Ads Data Hub. This product is essentially a data warehouse where ad exposure data is housed and can be connected to Google’s own solutions for attribution, analytics, and data management.
One new benefit is access to the Google ID, which is a powerful cross-device ID that uses data from users logging into Google services like Android, Maps, YouTube, etc. Previously, DoubleClick was only tracking and sharing a cookie-based DoubleClick ID, which neither connected cross-device ad exposure and conversion nor reconciled multiple IDs to the same person. For many advertisers doing log-level data analysis and activation, this new ID is a big upgrade because it provides more accurate measurement.
One major downside is that this data cannot leave Ads Data Hub. Consequently, you cannot do independent verification of Google’s attribution or analytics modeling. If Google says Google performs better than its competitors, you will have to trust Google at its word. In the past, you would at least have the raw data to apply your own attribution model if you so wanted, or to re-run Google’s calculations to verify its accuracy (since big companies are not infallible).
By extension, outside ad tech providers (such as DMPs, MTA, etc.) who may be best in-class will have a much harder time working with Google solutions. As a result, you will be dependent on Google.
To do matching of off-Google data such as other ad exposure or conversions that happen offline, Ads Data Hub now requires you to upload and store your customer data in the Google Cloud. In that environment, it can be matched with Google’s ID and tracking so you can build a Google-powered point of view of the consumer journey.
In a way, Ads Data Hub is for those who trust but don’t need to verify. It is a good solution for advertisers who today spend the vast majority (75%+) of their ad budget with Google because ultimately if their advertising isn’t working, no matter what Google says about how it is performing, it would be ultimately accountable for the results. You wouldn’t need to verify calculations to know if your ad budget is wasted.
What else can I do?
Another solution is to add independent ad serving and/or tracking in addition to or in replacement of Google. By doing so, you can still generate log-level data for Google-sold media but it will not be tied to a Google ID. Instead, you will be using your own ID or a vendor’s cross-device ID to understand who saw what ad when, where, and how often.
This approach is best suited for large advertisers who want best in class ad tech solutions to work together, and who cannot spend all their money on a single media platform to achieve their desired results. Typically brands large enough to afford data lakes, independent attribution providers, and data management platforms are the ones who will have the most to lose by moving to Ads Data Hub.
More on the Ads Data Hub series