Vidhya Srinivasan has perhaps the most powerful job in marketing analytics, but until two years ago, wasn’t in marketing at all, having started her career as an engineer.
Now as VP-general manager of advertising at Google, she leads engineering and product teams focused on buying, analytics and measurement across ad products for the world’s biggest media company. She arrived with a mission to consolidate Google’s far flung measurement tools into a single offering, which she did.
But making her work harder these days is Google's move to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome. That puts her in the midst of some of marketing’s biggest controversies, a strange place for someone who spent most of her prior seven years before Google overseeing units of Amazon Web Services, including its Redshift machine learning pricing optimization platform.
Srinivasan grew up alongside six male cousins in India who became engineers, and she wanted to do the same. After getting her engineering degree in India and computer science master's degree at Georgia Tech, she spent 10 years in engineering at IBM before joining Amazon.
While that prepared her for the culture at Google, it was nothing like handling the complexity of marketing’s many constituencies. She admits since she joined Google in August 2019 it’s been a learning experience. And now she’s charged with making advertisers as happy as possible about the ever changing rules of working inside – and ideally over the top of -- the biggest walled garden in media. In an interview with Ad Age, Srinivasan talks about how she’s navigating this complicated landscape and addresses some of the criticism Google has received.
What changes did you make when you came to Google?
When I first arrived, until that point, measurement had really been a verticalized function. Google has all these different services, and measurement was one of the functions that got embedded in these things. It's a perfectly good strategy when you're trying to go fast, because you want to quickly make decisions optimized for that specific area and keep moving.
I was really brought in to take a more holistic look at it and make it simpler and easier and more intuitive for advertisers. So it was really to be the advocate for our customers. And it was also not lost on me that another reason to do this would be all the privacy and regulatory changes. We needed a holistic view and strategy across what we were doing to again better serve our advertisers.
What was your biggest surprise coming in?
I did not expect the ad ecosystem to be as complex as I figured out it was, maybe six months in. This dread of regulation and browsers and operating systems and so many things coming together to create a very vibrant environment for discussion was something I didn't fully appreciate until I was right in the middle of it. It wasn’t a negative surprise. It was a very intellectually stimulating surprise.