Advertisers Grill Google, Yahoo

SAN JOSE, CA — Search advertisers grilled Google and Yahoo executives on the lack of transparency and the complexity of their paid ad programs at this week's Search Engine Strategies 2005 conference.

“Google won't tell us demographic and geographic information. Is it possible that you guys could be more open about the information you provide to advertisers, like other media companies?” one audience member asked during a search engine advertising forum.

“We certainly understand that a lot of advertisers want that, but we're going to have to balance that against user privacy,” said David Fisher, director of AdWords at Google.

Fisher's statement was ironic given the rash of media articles raising concerns about Google and privacy. Google recently refused to talk to CNET reporters for a year after that company ran a story about the subject along with personal information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt that was obtained through Google searches.

Though Google can provide general marketing information, information on where customers are and more specific behavioral data is difficult because of user privacy concerns, Fisher said.

Dan Boberg, senior director of strategic alliances at Yahoo Search Marketing, said he understood advertisers' concerns.

“We're definitely focused on that as far as being more innovative in the future,” Boberg said.

Until now, Yahoo has sought to drive sales rather than provide a slew of data, he said. At the same time, the company has implemented Yahoo Buzz, which does give demographic information.

David Jakubowski, general manager of search strategy and go-to-market at MSN, took advertisers' complaints as a chance to persuade them to try MSN's paid ad program.

“I suggest you sign up for the MSN pilot,” he said. “I think you'll be very happy with the results.” He added that MSN's adCenter and its new Keywords program will let advertisers “geotarget” consumers and target them by age, gender, day of week and other criteria.

Another issue raised by an advertiser was the complexity of paid ad programs.

“A lot of these features require a little more work, but a lot are more simple, and the effort is usually worth it,” Fisher replied.

Boberg's answer probably had attendees scratching their heads: “We're definitely focused on making things simpler for the advertiser, even though there's going to be a lot of complexity under that simplicity.”

“By providing robust tools to a sophisticated group like this,” Jakubowski said, “it gives those who want to set up a campaign the ability to do that.”

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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