Google's DoubleClick outage should force marketers to ask some hard questions

DoubleClick for Publishers has suffered five service disruptions in 13 days in March. When the ad tech stack is largely controlled by Google little things like reliability really matter. More transparency into what Google's DoubleClick is needed.

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Google's control of the ad stack isn't optimal, but when DoubleClick's reliability fails Web publishers' dependence on the search giant becomes all too apparent.

On Tuesday, DoubleClick was hit with an outage that slowed Web pages and hit publishers' display ad revenue. Don't cry for Google though. Google's workaround advice to publishers was basically to limit tracking and divert marketing to text ads. Gee thanks. More than a few ad campaigns were simply shut down.

This outage started at 8 a.m. PDT and stretched into the evening. It's still not totally clear what caused this "unexpected behavior." On Twitter, a few marketers noted that the ad agencies and marketers were less than pleased. But no one was asking for make goods...yet.

As these ad campaigns around the Web had to be paused, it became clear that enterprises need to demand more transparency from DoubleClick. Here's why:

  1. DoubleClick is the dominant display ad serving platform and there aren't other options.
  2. Google is a near monopoly with DoubleClick and already struggling Web publishers get punched in the head again.
  3. The ad stack on the Web is integrated so DoubleClick's reliability woes are enough to make sites crawl.
  4. Google has rightly been focused on mobile and its core search ad business. That reality makes you wonder how much Google has invested in DoubleClick over the years.
  5. Transparency was so-so at best. Sure, Google updated its dashboards and offered a bit of detail, but an 11 a.m. update should offer a bit more than saying there will be another update by 8 p.m.

Google ultimately said it resolved its DoubleClick issues with the following update:

The problem with DoubleClick Search should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better.

Due to a bug in DoubleClick, we were unable to track and record some ad impressions, clicks and conversions for a period on March 13th (EDT). Some redirects also did not work as intended. For customers who link their DoubleClick and Google Analytics (or Google Analytics 360) accounts, impacted events may not have been recorded.

To mitigate the issue, we briefly paused conversion tracking and automated bidding on DoubleClick Search, and some bidding on DoubleClick Bid Manager.

We have fixed the bug and will continue to monitor over the coming days.

Marketers need to be asking about DoubleClick's system reliability. After all, it has been a rough month for DoubleClick for Publishers. Consider that DoubleClick for Publishers has had service issues the following days, according to Google's ad status dashboard:

  • March 13.
  • March 7.
  • March 6.
  • March 2.
  • March 1.

These service issues are unacceptable coming from a company that runs on Google Cloud Platform and pitches enterprises on redundancy and reliability.

Of course, Google has some time to resolve its DoubleClick service problems. Where are marketers going to go?