Susan Bidel, Joe Stanhope, Tina Moffett, and I were able to attend Google Marketing Live this week in San Jose. There were many announcements and changes made to Google’s platforms and products. Possibly the most significant — an announcement that was made over a week ago — was the retirement of the AdWords and DoubleClick brands in favor of more unified product suites: Google Ads (the consolidation of AdWords, YouTube ads, etc.) and Google Marketing Platform (the consolidation of Google Analytics, DoubleClick Search, DoubleClick Bid Manager, etc.).

We had a few overarching takeaways from Google Marketing Live:

  1. Google is emphasizing integration across all of its products. Google didn’t retire the AdWords and DoubleClick brands because they were stale or no-names in marketing. It did it to bring its ad products closer together so that marketers can better plan, manage, buy, and optimize advertising across all channels. Brands like Major League Baseball, Sprint, EA Sports, and Adidas were featured for using Google Marketing Platform (GMP) across their media buying, data science, and digital marketing teams. Google’s hope is that by bringing all GMP products together, it will allow advertisers to have more control, share insights better across teams, make faster decisions, and potentially consolidate their advertising and marketing activities to the Google stack.
  2. Automation is Google’s interpretation of innovation for paid search. For marketers with small paid search budgets, or those strapped for resources to execute paid search advertising, there was welcome news from this event. Google is taking a lot of the manual labor out of AdWords. Google’s been rolling out “smart campaigns” to help speed up creating search ad campaigns through machine learning. Additionally, new types of ads like Responsive Search Ads give greater flexibility by allowing paid search advertisers to use up to 15 headlines and four descriptions for a search ad. Google’s machine-learning algorithm will determine the optimal headline and description based on several factors, such as past performance, search query, and campaign goal.
  3. Google is trying to stay ahead of Facebook’s mess. Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal has put extra pep in Google’s step; it is focused on developing data access standards for advertisers and third-party vendors. Google acknowledged some concerns resulting from the recent announcement to restrict use of DoubleClick IDs (e.g., sorry, not sorry), but to offset the disruption, Google is promoting its Ads Data Hub, where advertisers can connect first-party data sources with Google data sources — all without leaving the Google ecosystem. Advertisers can also upload their first-party data into the Google Cloud Platform so that marketers can develop customer and measurement models within a secure ecosystem. One thing is for sure: Google is very firm on limiting customer-level data extraction from its ecosystem to avoid data breaches, privacy concerns, and questionable use cases of its data.
  4. Google is enabling more effective ways to create content. Google has learned that one of the biggest frustrations marketers face, from a creative perspective, is the lack of communication between media and creative teams. Its new initiative, giving creative execs the opportunity to see the campaign set up and performance metrics (but not budget data), will help marketing organizations break down silos and apply data-driven insights to creative functions. Within Display & Video 360, design and creative teams will be able to collaborate on content development thanks to a tighter integration with Google Web Designer. This is a compelling move given the new ad opportunities and new creative formats Google is rolling out.
  5. Google has cast its net beyond just direct response and into brand and offline marketing. Possibly the most noticeable change of the conference was the tone Google used to describe how it is helping marketers and companies grow and tackle their challenges. We heard more about the importance of brand and brand marketing. For instance, Google Survey 360 is being used by several companies to do brand lift studies. And there was a concerted effort to talk about driving in-store traffic for brands with hundreds of locations. Google’s online-to-offline measurement and automation of local ad campaigns received attention during the main-stage keynotes. 
  6. Changes to Google Assistant are slowly bettering the voice search experience. There were interesting and even emotional stories about Google Assistant’s impact on people’s lives. And Google is making some good efforts to improve the experience of Google Assistant. For example, you no longer have to repeat “Hey Google . . .” every time you want to ask it a question; it has expanded its language capacity to 30 languages and is in over 80 countries; and Google is testing out visual complements to the assistant. But the real hurdles were not addressed, such as better natural language processing and being able to take complex questions/requests (such as “running shoes under $150”) and provide a contextual and relevant answer to the user.