Will Google make refreshing data deals beyond Heineken?

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The targeted ad deal between Heineken and YouTube could be a sign of things to come. But brands will cry foul if Google’s data is the preserve of big-paying partners.

Under the deal, the Dutch brewer will place its ads on YouTube as well as other Google platforms in 20 countries. In return, it will be given access to Google data on how people who view Heineken’s ads behave on its sites, helping to make its ads more targeted.

According to Heineken financial communications manager John Paul Schuirink: “This will include information on what the preferences of our viewers are, where they shop, or what other words they search for on Google.”

The relationships between brands and the technology companies that now own some of the most important advertising and content platforms will be a defining feature in the development of digital advertising. Facebook, Apple and Google, to name some of the most prominent, are all adopting different approaches, but none has decided to make its data an open resource for advertisers.

Facebook provides performance analytics and a limited amount of anonymised demographic data to advertisers. This allows them to see, for example, when an ad is viewed by a friend of someone who is already a fan of the brand’s Facebook page. Apple, meanwhile, is notoriously stingy about the subscriber details that it offers to publishers of iPhone and iPad apps on its App Store.

Google appears now to be taking a piecemeal approach, by giving individual access to one brand. It may be testing the water, trying to work out how much transparency is really in its commercial interests – and indeed how much data its users want it to hand over to advertisers.

Heineken is unlikely to be the only brand that ultimately gets access to Google’s data, but the level of demand from advertisers is surely now going to be overwhelming for Google. Brands with whom Google has valued ad partnerships are likely to get testy if they feel they can’t play on a level playing field with their competitors.

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