Mobile

Google’s Jason Spero on how Google is embracing the latest mobile ad innovations (Q&A)

Above: Google's Jason Spero at MobileBeat 2012

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

On the eve of his opening session at our MobileBeat conference tomorrow, Google’s head of performance media, Jason Spero, tells us how the company is approaching mobile ads, attribution, and more.

At MobileBeat, Spero will be discussing what’s driving mobile growth today, as well as what lies ahead. Grab your tickets now, or risk missing out!

VentureBeat: You were a key member of the AdMob team that Google acquired to put it in front-runner status on mobile app monetization. What role does AdMob play in Google’s mobile strategy today?

Jason Spero: That was four years ago. Amazing! Mobile has grown into every corner at Google and the AdMob technology and team have helped fuel that growth. AdMob technology has been woven into Google’s Display offerings and has also accelerated other offerings most recently in Google Analytics, ad-serving, exchanges and much more. More than 650,000 apps use AdMob to monetize across iOS and Android, and the AdMob network reaches 900 million unique devices a month.

More broadly, it was great to come to Google and help move our products and clients toward a multi-screen future. Since AdMob joined Google, we’ve built the Mobile Playbook which helped Google’s customers begin to understand how mobile changes consumer behavior. We’ve pioneered with research about consumers’ paths to purchase with the “Full Value of Mobile.” And we’ve done ground-breaking research around mobile site design.

The AdMob acquisition was a catalyst in Google’s investment and leadership around mobile media.

VentureBeat: Facebook has emerged from being a nobody in mobile advertising just three years ago. In some ways, it’s even challenging Google’s hegemony in mobile display, especially in the area of app monetization. Is this now a two-horse race?

Jason Spero: Given how early it still is for mobile commerce, and how complex the multi-screen marketing ecosystem is — it includes search, app promotions, in-app ads and commerce, online to offline, and much more — I’d have a hard time counting the number of horses in this race. This market continues to amaze me; there’s innovation everywhere.

VentureBeat: Attribution is an increasingly important topic for advertisers in a mobile-centric world. Can you describe this shift and how Google is thinking about this?

Jason Spero: We’re increasingly living in a multi-screen world, and consumers’ behavior is rapidly changing as a result. Today, our connectivity comes with us and fuels decision moments anywhere and everywhere. We see these new behaviors — downloading apps, moving across screens or online to store, and more — as new paths to purchase that contribute to what we broadly call the “Full value of Mobile”.

Last year, to help advertisers better measure this ‘full value’, we launched Estimated Total Conversions, a first step toward showing advertisers the full value of their Adwords campaigns. It does this by providing an anonymous, aggregate estimate of mobile-specific conversion types. We started with “cross-device conversions” — conversions that start on one screen, and end on another.

We’re also testing ways for advertisers to upload their own sales data and understand how their online campaigns drove this business. It’s still early days, but we’ve seen great initial results: RKG and fashion retailer Express found that overall return on ad spend increases 102% when including offline sales in online advertising results.

VentureBeat: How big do you think video advertising be, and what will Google’s role be there there?

Jason Spero: For years, YouTube has been one of our big bets and we’re really excited about the momentum we’re seeing there. For example, ads in this year’s YouTube Super Bowl AdBlitz were viewed more than 300 million times, nearly 3X the size of the audience on TV. Especially as multi-screen usage grows — today almost 40 percent of YouTube viewership is from mobile — we’ll continue to invest in ways for advertisers to connect with customers using sight, sound, and motion, across screens.

VentureBeat We’re hearing a lot about the value of targeting mobile consumers during certain “moments” when they are more likely to be receptive to messaging, such as when a user levels up in a mobile game. How is Google thinking about this?

Jason Spero: In so many ways, mobile and connectivity have focused consumer behavior, and advertiser strategies, around the idea of ‘on demand’ and ‘moments’. Gaming is a great example, but this really touches on a huge variety of things: “moments” include when I am deciding where to eat or what hotel to stay in or which refrigerator to buy. Think about the consumer shopping for a car. Almost all of them are using their phones on the lot. They are searching and watching videos and asking friends and family for opinions.

This creates moments for marketers to engage that consumer like never before. And we’re really excited about that. There’s plenty to talk about here, but one part of this conversation is making experiences locally relevant. So much of what we do, especially on our phones while we’re out and about, is shaped by our immediate surroundings — we want to find places nearby to eat or shop, research cities we may visit, and much more.

We recently conducted a study and found that 4 out of 5 consumers want search ads to be customized to their city, zip code, or immediate surroundings. This is a big opportunity for business to provide their customers with genuinely useful information, at the moment it matters.

VentureBeat: Amazon just announced its new high-end Fire smartphone, and it’s more than a phone. With its camera system and Firefly technology that instantly recognizes millions of items and lets you buy them on the fly, Amazon is launching a full attack on the mobile shopping front. Does Google’s Android plan something similar in this regard?

Jason Spero: My focus isn’t on Android, so I can’t speak to that team’s plans. However, the broader point here is that the consumer is empowered like never before. Pricing, reviews — all the information on the web! — are available to them in the decision process. This has transformed shopping; as a result retailers have retooled their value propositions to emphasize same-day availability, service offerings and more.

This also changes merchandising as retailers stock more house brands and unique items. This changes training for store associates as retailers emphasize other factors and match online prices. We’re still at the tip of the iceberg, but already connectivity has changed our shopping experiences and blurred the lines between online and offline.

VentureBeat: How can Google achieve an advantage in analytics/measurement technology, and how exactly does this help it win more customers for its core monetization business?

Jason Spero: Marketers have specific goals. They want to sell tacos or vacations or move cases of soap or drive people into their stores. The key, particularly when it comes to digital marketing, is making marketing measurable; if we can measure then we can optimize and help our customers drive results.

In many ways, this gets back to the discussion about measurement in today’s multi-screen world. As the idea of a ‘conversion’ has broadened — customers visit websites, download apps, make phone calls, walk into stores — it has become increasingly important to show the full value marketers’ campaigns across screens. Tools like Estimated Total Conversions, integrations between products — like our recent one between Google Analytics and AdMob — enable us to better serve our customers and help deliver a better ads experience for users too.

More about the companies and people from this article:

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

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1 comments
Jim Meyers
Jim Meyers

Talk is cheap. If they were truly being innovative they would be playing SOME role in the evolution of native mobile ads, for example. Instead, AdMob - one of the most stale and outdated ad networks out there today - is not a few feet, but several yards behind Airpush, Twitter, and - yes - Facebook. When was the last time AdMob introduced a mobile ad units, feature, or capability that truly inspired the entire mobile ad industry to reach higher? I can't think back that far. And THAT is sad, especially for Google.