Google promises industry it won't leave it behind at IAB summit

Nestlé, Unilever and Mondelēz are among early supporters of Google's framework for privacy-safe ads online. 

Google promises industry it won't leave it behind at IAB summit

Google made a case for building a future without highly personalized ads during the Interactive Advertising Bureau's leadership summit on Monday. It's a stance that has made Google slightly less popular within the industry lately.

Google also said advertisers were already experimenting with its new framework for privacy-safe ads online, and named brands like Nestlé, Unilever and Mondelēz as early supporters of its proposal.

Jerry Dischler, VP and GM for ads at Google, gave the most public address from the search giant at IAB ALM since the company made a bold declaration last week that it would ditch personalized ad IDs, putting distance between Google’s position and many of the companies at IAB’s summit. The conference brings together senior leaders across the industry to discuss issues facing the ad world this year, including identity, measurement and privacy. 

IAB is working with stakeholders to develop new IDs that it hopes comply with privacy concerns, while still powering an open and free internet.

Google seemed to take aim against the concept that personal identifiers could be developed that can safely address growing privacy concerns, calling unified IDs “not durable,” Dischler said. Instead of personal ID-based ad targeting, Google is building what it has called a Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC, which relies on aggregate pools of internet users, who can’t be identified individually to serve ads.

Google said it was already testing this way of targeting and measuring ads in its Chrome web browser, and that it would expand testing within Google Ads in the second quarter. During Dischler’s talk, Google flashed the names of a number of early supporters of its new framework, including Mondelēz, Nestlé and Unilever, and advertising companies like Omnicom, Accenture Interactive and MightyHive. Google did not name brands that have already started testing the program.

Dischler assured the industry that the company was simply responding to the growing demands of consumers, politicians and regulators to prioritize privacy. The old methods of conducting internet advertising were no longer viable because they allowed too much non-consensual collecting and sharing of user data. Internet giants like Google and Apple are clamping down on how much data they allow to be shared on their web browsers and mobile phones, making it more difficult to conduct automated advertising.

There are worries that Google, the largest internet ad company in the world, would build a system that mostly benefits its own business, while leaving out the rest of the ecosystem. That was a clear concern coming from IAB, too. “The future is not a time to go it alone,” read a title card in the IAB’s introduction of the event.

Dischler spoke with Shenan Reed senior VP and head of media at L'Oreal USA, who raised another concern, that Google’s approach would create a world of impenetrable “walled gardens." The concern is that brands would be flying blind online with all platforms isolated from each other and without the ability to match data across them.

“We’re not going to block advertisers and publishers from connecting [with Google] through first-party relationships,” Dischler said.

Senator Ron Wyden also spoke on the first day of IAB ALM, which will run through Friday. Wyden noted that Washington leaders are watching and crafting new legislation that will affect the industry.

Wyden took aim specifically at programmatic advertising and real-time bidding, concerned about how consumer data is traded behind the scenes in order to target ads online. Wyden urged the ad industry to prioritize privacy and obtain consumer consent before sharing data.