Google: Selling Display Advertising | In Practise

Google: Selling Display Advertising

Former Industry Director and Head of Display at Google

Learning outcomes

  • How Google structures enterprise sales teams across platforms and products
  • The role DoubleClick played on Google's dominance in display advertising
  • Challenges and opportunities selling YouTube to enterprise clients
  • How Google works with agencies and end clients
  • Why traditional advertising agencies are getting squeezed
  • Further opportunities for Google selling to enterprise clients
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Executive profile

Brian Cusack

Former Industry Director and Head of Display at Google

Brian spent 13 years working at Google and is the Former Industry Director for Healthcare. He ran several national teams that support the digital marketing and advertising programs for a wide range of organizations and companies in the Health Services industry. Prior to this role, Brian was Head of Display on Google’s YouTube and a Director on the Display team focusing on digital video advertising. Prior to Google, Brian spent 3 years at Aol and 15 years at Ziff Davis. Read more

Brian, it's a pleasure to have you with us. Could you share some context to when you first joined Google?

I joined Google a little more than 13 years ago. I actually joined Google at the time they were acquiring YouTube, so my job was actually to help launch a distinct sales team in the Google world to sell advertising on YouTube, and it was called a Display Team at the time. As folks may or may not recall, back then, Google was selling almost exclusively search advertising, performance-based advertising, and this was the time that Google was diversifying its advertising platforms and products to include video and more display opportunities. So the team that I was involved with starting there was the team focused on video and display.

That was the time that analysts and folks in general were trying to figure out how could Google have spent so much money for YouTube? Because it really hadn't been a well monetized platform at all. It really wasn't well organized, and now in hindsight, it was a rounding error in terms of Google's fiscal position and the revenue that it's generated has been amazing. It's also been a platform that's become, I don't want to call it a standard setter, but has really created the environment for so many new ways of content being created, distributed. So that's when I joined. Very shortly thereafter, Google decided that it did not want to have a distinct display team so we became integrated into the larger sales teams. Google tends to rethink and reorganize and re-imagine how sales teams should be organized every couple of years. So eventually, we essentially became mainstreamed within the organization and not a YouTube standalone organization.

How has the thinking at Google evolved in structuring sales?

Yes, so that could be a whole hour. But one thing has remained true always, and that is that the customer relationship is the primary focal point of any sales, of any organization and it's organized around industry segments or sectors, so that a seller has a set list of clients and they are within a specific industry, so that that seller learns the details and the nuance of an industry. Whether it's financial services, travel, CPG, healthcare – where I spent a lot of time – you learn that. What has gone through different iterations as Google as expanded its offering, is what do partner teams look like? Are they built out around different ad products?

So while I mentioned I started at Google to help launch a YouTube sales team, there wasn't a YouTube sales team, but now there's a person who represents Google at a client and has to be able to talk about search and talk about display and talk about programmatic and talk about video and talk about data analytics. How that gets organized, in terms of partner teams, that's what changes a fair amount, in terms of what's the relationship between that person and the sales team, that person and the client. Are they attached more closely to the product team? Are they attached more to the sales team? That's gone through iterations, but the one thing that always remains constant is this core, what I call pods, this concept of a pod, that is an expert in an industry and has a finite set of accounts that it knows. That's always been true in the 13 years that I spent there. It was the surrounding support, partner, product oriented or service-oriented roles that kind of moved around during that time.

And so can we run through a 101 of display advertising, in terms of the core functions and different stages of the process, between demand side platforms and supply side platforms in display advertising?

If you're a customer and you're purchasing display ads, you are largely going to purchase it through probably one of two entities, but you can't dismiss the role of the agency in this conversation. Because it could be that the end client actually has no idea how their display ads are purchased at all. In some cases, they don't and I believe that that is to their detriment. The ads purchased directly by the end client or the agency can be purchased in aggregate across, a very large network like a Google, who has such enormous amount of inventory across such a wide array of sites, that it’s a simple, almost one stop shopping opportunity. There's also the opportunity to purchase via point players, who are display networks or display experts, who will bring a perception of specialization in display to what they offer to the agency or the client.

In some cases, that expertise is very real where they've built proprietary technology to essentially provide a better mouse trap. In some cases, it's really just human capital applied to the problem to dedicate people to analysis and optimization. I'm going to try to portray a balanced point of view as an ex-Googler, or also known as a Xoogler I think.

Are you familiar with the concept of the LUMAscape and LUMA Partners, the industry private bankers? People who watch this could look up LUMAscape if they don't know it already. Essentially, this investment bank built a map of the industry. When I started in 2007 there was no LUMAscape because things were really simple. Then LUMAscape created their first LUMAscape map of the ad tech world in 2010, I believe it was. It was on a single page. I just checked recently and I think that LUMA now creates and publishes 18 different maps to cover the industry.

So back to the conversation. You've got display buying highly fragmented, because you have all these point players who are representing probably segments of the available inventory on the universe and may or may not bring a proprietary component to it, either technology or high level human capital applied to the problem, which is making the display investment work as best as it can. The end client, in partnership with their agency, has to figure out, where do they get the best performance?

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Google: Selling Display Advertising

July 29, 2020

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