Google's removal of DoubleClick ID presents litany of issues for brands, agencies

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Credit: Photo illustration by Ad Age

The walls around Google's garden are about to get a lot taller.

That's because come May 25, when the European Union's Global Protection Data Regulation goes into effect, Google will no longer provide marketers with DoubleClick IDs from DoubleClick Bid Manager and DoubleClick Campaign Manager on consumers in the European Economic Area. DoubleClick ID allows marketers to use data from DoubleClick Campaign Manager for things such as cross platform reporting and measurement.

Google will also stop providing encrypted cookie IDs or user list names in data transfers to buyers from its AdX exchange, but buyers can continue to use that data within AdX.

The moves presents a litany of issues for marketers, including using third party measurement companies for things such as multi-touch attribution. Advertisers also won't be able to use consumer data captured via advertising on Google outside the company's owned properties.

The heart of the issue

Google says marketers can leverage Ads Data Hub, a relatively unknown offering that debuted last year, for custom analysis and measurement. But come May 25, third parties will not be able to place measurement pixels on YouTube. "This means no third party system can verify the data being put into Ads Data Hub by Google for these campaigns," says Anthony Iacovone, co-founder and CEO of Barometric, a third-party measurement and attribution company. "So there are definitely elements of Google grading its own homework." Iacovone fears the approach will soon spread to all of Google's offerings, not just YouTube.

Insiders at Google say the notion it is "grading its own homework" is flat wrong, adding that the company works with measurement vendors such as Innovid, Sizmek and C3 Metrics. More are expected to join.

Perhaps the larger issue with advertisers is that while they can input data into Ads Data Hub, they can't take anything useful out for use beyond Google, because all data comes out aggregated, thus making Google the gatekeeper of data.

"The largest issue with Ads Data Hub is that it is a complete black box," Iacovone says. "It houses raw user and impression-level data, yet will not allow marketers to view or export anything in a format that will allow for granular optimizations per user. They are asking marketers to send all their data up into Ads Data Hub, and get nothing but aggregate counts back. There is no way for marketers to now verify or question the validity of any data that Google places within Ads Data Hub."

"It's a monopolistic play that is disguised as a privacy solution," he adds. "The large limitation is that while you put ingredients into [Ads Data Hub], you can no longer pull out the raw materials to gain high resolution insights that allow outside attribution or optimization."

Ads Data Hub is a measurement system built for reporting on top of Google's BigQuery system, which allows companies to store and analyze massive amounts of data for meaningful insights.

A Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement that the company is "making these changes as part of our ongoing commitment to user privacy. Ad reporting is an important part of the digital ecosystem and we are committed to partnering with advertisers and partners to help refine strategies, including investing heavily in the expansion of Ads Data Hub."

Still, people like Iacovone remains skeptical.

The move will likely make some agency employees disposable, Iacovone says, adding that those focused in areas of measurement won't have much to do if much of the company's money is heading toward Google and Facebook. Instead, a few might strictly focus on being Ads Data Hub experts, he says.

The larger fight ahead

Companies such as AppNexus, The Trade Desk, LiveRamp and Index Exchange are banding together to create an Advertising ID Consortium. The effort is aimed at creating a standardized ID large enough to offer marketers the same targeting capabilities found at Google and Facebook.

Should they succeed, the companies will remove the largest competitive advantage the so-called duoply has: identity, or addressability, with reach in the billions. But Google is shoring up its defenses and making its data only compatible within its walls, a move that might make third party vendors such as Barometric near-obsolete.

"It's a slippery slope controlling as much as they do and it's starting to cross the line," Iacovone says. "If you are starting to block others to participate in an entire ecosystem you are drawing the line with antitrust. It is getting to that point."

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said Google will no longer provide marketers with DoubleClick IDs from DoubleClick Bid Manager and DoubleClick Campaign Manager. That change applies only to IDs on consumers in the European Economic Area.

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