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Google’s New Audience Targeting Tool: Get on the Data-Driven Bandwagon or Get Left Behind

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Published on 4/22/15

Last week, Google announced a new service that will enable advertisers to target ads based on the email address. In the wake of this innovation, we spoke to leaders in the email marketing space to learn how the move will potentially impact email practitioners. After all, there are a number of similar tools, such as Facebook’s Custom Audiences and Twitter’s Tailored Audiences, already in market. But it’s the almighty Google that’s drawing attention to this non-cookie based marketing technology. With so many players in the space, is Google too late?

How would Google’s targeting work? A brand would upload segments of their subscribers into Google (just like you can with Facebook, Twitter, and others) and when those subscribers log in to Google to search, whether on Maps, Earth, YouTube, Waze, etc., the brand would bid on the their customers in real time and show an ad based on rules they’ve set. The uncertainty of targeting the right person has plagued the marketer since the dawn of digital. This ability to target a logged-in user is the future of the industry and that is what Google is going after. Will marketers be pleased?

As Bob Frady, vice president of monetization at Zeeto Media told us in conversation, “I am thrilled that our substantial email database can be re-leveraged. CRM retargeting is a nice, complimentary piece to a marketer’s tool kit.”

Marketers have been reaching users for years based on cookie matching. The majority of modern marketing is basically built on this premise, similar to the way email marketing is based on sending email. Oracle Bluekai, eXelate, Datalogix, and so many others are built on matching cookie segments.

The more devices and browsers that each person uses, the less effective cookie matching becomes. Hence, the industry is moving to identity matching. The email address is the best identity solution because people use it to log in to everything…Facebook, Twitter, Gilt, Chase, Pinterest, Amazon, iTunes, Groupon…everything.

As Dela Quist, CEO of AlchemyWorx recently wrote, “To not have an email address is the digital equivalent of being homeless. Without an email address, you cannot shop online, bank online or engage with social media. Furthermore, iOS and Android devices now require an email address to set up and it will surely not be long before this a requirement on all Internet-connected devices.”
Now more than ever, email addresses are an important piece of data. The email address is not only for sending email, it’s also for reaching consumers wherever they are paying attention. Jordan Cohen, CMO of Fluent has said “CRM retargeting works so well because it targets existing brand loyalists (people who are already on a marketer’s email list) and also, critically, lookalikes of those brand loyalists, which enables marketers to bring new prospective customers into their funnels more effectively and profitably.”

Email marketers who can adapt to these new solutions are going to be very successful.  However, those who think the only purpose of the email address is for sending mail will soon be at a disadvantage. The best future practitioners will embrace “email as identity.” Those who do not will still have a place, but ultimately may be marginalized as email becomes one channel amongst many competing for users’ attention.

Google’s latest launch is going to be huge and transformative for the email industry. “The fact that the largest online advertising company on the planet is now on board is a signal that email-based display advertising, as opposed to cookie-based, is the future,” states Cohen. Get on the bandwagon or get left behind.

It is increasingly a world where we sit in the middle of data analysis and conventional email marketing. Email marketers need to continue to embrace the use of data in order to get the most out of the email channel.

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