Google Tweaks Its Product Road Map To Roll With COVID And Dishes On The 2022 Chrome Deadline

When COVID-19 hit, the Google Ads team changed its product road map to meet evolving needs, particularly those of small businesses.

When COVID-19 hit, the Google Ads team changed its product road map to meet evolving needs, particularly those of small businesses.

And now some of those products are starting to hit the market, including a new trend discovery tool and new buying objectives.

“We took a step back and asked ourselves how we could change our road map to be more useful,” Jerry Dischler, Google’s VP and GM of ads, told AdExchanger. “And we made a series of very fast product changes to support our advertiser base in various ways.”

For example, during the pandemic Google noticed a significant gap between supply and demand and the emergence of new behaviors. Global searches for curbside pickup, for instance, are up by around 3,000% year over year.

Using those insights combined with search data, Google whipped up an insights tool over a single weekend that advertisers could use to see insights that are specific to their business.

Hershey’s has been using Google tools to research how to approach Halloween this year. Depending on the prevalence of COVID-19 in a certain ZIP code or the popularity of particular activities – say, trick-or-treating vs. at-home celebrations – Hershey’s has changed creative and targeted campaigns so that they’re relevant and sensitive to the experience of a certain region.

This capability became the basis for a more formalized Insights Page, a tool Dischler said Google probably wouldn’t have developed if not for the pandemic, that will soon be available within Google Ads. The Page will show current and emerging search demand for products and services related to a specific business, audience forecasting and competitive insights.

Google will begin beta testing the Insights Page in the United States, Canada and Australia over the next few months, followed later on in Q4 by Japan, Germany, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy and Brazil.

“We’re hoping to help small businesses really provide something relevant,” Dischler said.

In that vein, Google is in the midst of working on a product that will allow advertisers to run automated campaigns across all Google surfaces, excluding search. The purpose of Performance Max, as it’s being called, is to “allow advertisers to maximize the impact of their ads with a minimal time investment,” Dischler said.

Performance Max, which is in limited beta now and will open more widely next year, allows advertisers to set up their campaigns based on marketing objectives, such as online sales, offline sales, new customer acquisition or lead gen. Google then uses machine learning to optimize the placements across all Google inventory (minus search).

Machine learning continues to be a big investment area for Google because of three main reasons: performance, ease of use and flexibility. The latter has become even more important during the pandemic.

“When you have really big shocks in the system, and COVID is a great example of this, the folks using our machine learning or other machine learning-based solutions perform the best, because they don’t need to change their bids or their budgets or even their creative assets,” Dischler said. “The system can respond in an elegant way to the changing demand.”

In addition to the Insights Page and Performance Max, Google is making Video Action Campaigns generally available starting Tuesday. In beta since June, Video Action Campaigns automatically distribute direct response video ads to the YouTube home feed, watch pages and Google’s video partners within a single campaign.

Over the coming year, Google will start testing new surfaces to add to Video Action Campaigns, including direct response ads on connected TVs. A small number of advertisers are already beginning to test this.

According to Dischler, people are actually starting to demonstrate shopping behavior on YouTube, which makes him optimistic that DR could work in the living room.

But what about the elephant in the living room, err, room: the coming deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome?

Although Dischler has previously said that Google won’t proceed unless there are viable solutions in place, his gut tells him that “2022 is going to happen.”

“We really believe in the open web and we believe in the ad-based business models working for all parties, including users, advertisers and publishers – and I still believe that,” Dischler said. “But I’m seeing a lot of optimism internally and externally about coming up with a solution that works and that’s privacy safe. So, I’d just say, stay tuned.”