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Google Ad Academy – Toronto – Display is More than Just Sizzle

Posted May 5th, 2011 by Andrew Goodman

Today, Google held an education event in Toronto, aimed mainly at Canadian agencies and other partners. This high-level overview of new developments in various advertising channel was called Google Ad Academy. The venue was in the beautiful Art Gallery of Ontario building at Dundas & McCaul.

Along with practical takeaways – like a typical 5.7% CTR increase being seen in the “long continuous headline format” available for eligible ads in premium position (this cited by Google’s Matt Rogers) – a variety of assertions and conjectures were offered.

Google Canada Country Manager Chris O’Neill pointed towards relatively poor adoption of display advertising among Google advertisers with this surprising statistic: “There are 1.5 million search advertisers but only 100,000 display advertisers.” The reason posited was due to complexity and unfamiliarity, but historic lack of performance must be driving this as well, especially for smaller companies uninterested in defending or lifting their brands.

The “newbie” audience at agencies in Canada is vast and will be a recurring constituency at these events, at least until more agency people get more curious about how the guts of the platforms work. One question from the floor: “In the AdWords platform, can you specify which mobile devices you want the ads to show to?” Just log in, dude. That’s two clicks down at the Campaign Settings level.

Google’s Jess Olsen soft-announced that Google’s pipeline includes a future capability to include display ad buys through other ad exchanges, not just DoubleClick’s.

At the session on Analytics, we learned that the Google Analytics interface had recently undergone a refresh and many features are now faster and more intuitive to use. This seems more like evolutionary change, but unquestionably the platform is jam-packed with features.

Most of the emphasis and excitement about fast-emerging functionality seemed to be rightly placed on new directions in the Display Network. Targeting by interest category (“topic targeting”), demographics, and remarketing (retargeting) are all in the mix despite confusing nomenclature. People actually using them know some of the nitty gritty details; people not yet using them may assume a degree of finality or finish to these offerings that just isn’t there yet. And even experienced advertisers and Googlers need to check and recheck the terminology; when you say “target similar users,” do you mean demographic targeting in the display network?

Regardless of the gap between the world of pretty slides and speeches, and the reality of what you can buy from Google and how, these offerings are vital to advertisers and will be more so as development increases.

Search is the steak, as Google’s Mike Lorenc aptly pointed out.

But let’s not be apologetic about the importance of Display. Display is more than just the sizzle; more than just an adjunct that “assists” search in making final conversions. A significant part of the display network can directly drive conversions, and it must be used because for some purposes, search simply won’t work well. Search’s rules are: people must be searching for that — and you’re not allowed to distract people who aren’t really searching for what you’re offering. Misused search advertising is either a complete non-starter due to insufficient searches, or prohibitively expensive due to how Quality Score works.

Display can be steak too: and you’ll need it when you just want to focus on target demographics, themes, and behavior as your targeting methods, without any keywords in the equation.

I’ll be talking about the concept of the “steakish” portions and uses of the Display Network at SES Toronto in June.

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