Last week I flew to San Jose, California, to attend Google’s annual conference - Google Marketing Live - for its largest advertisers. Over the past 13 years I’ve been to most of Google’s European offices but I’ve never been to the Global HQ in Mountain View - it was incredibly exciting!

After a weekend recovering from jetlag with my hospitable cousin in San Francisco, I took the Caltrain down to San Jose for the 3 day conference. Below I’ll try and summarise its broad themes without breaking the NDA we gave to attend.

Conference Summary: Google Marketing Live 2018

Google was laying out its advertising and marketing product road-map for the next few years and many of the features discussed are not yet even in beta.

Google kicked off the event with a live streamed keynote presentation given by Sridhar Ramaswamy, Senior Vice President of Ads & Commerce who spoke broadly about Google’s philosophy for advertising – that it should be valuable, transparent and trustworthy, that it should work for everyone and provide meaningful assistance.

That word assistance came up again and again - search you can see being supplanted in Google’s thinking by the rise of assistance. Presenter after presenter showed off its power, though teasingly none were yet showing how advertising was going to be woven into it.

You can watch the entire keynote presentation here >>>

After Sridhar’s kickoff keynote we went under NDA. The broad themes thereafter were:

1. The AI-driven, automated approach they are going to increasingly take with SMB clients

2. Conversely, with enterprise-level clients there is a strong push towards the Google Marketing Platform within which Analytics 360, Tag Manager, Optimise and the Doubleclick stack now sit

3. Tracking and attribution is going to become more accurate and simpler with significant advances coming in cross device tracking and store visit tracking in the pipeline

4. All ad formats will increasingly have CPA bidding models built in as standard. Obviously there will be statistical significance data thresholds but these will still be welcomed

5. I loved a talk that hectored us to ‘end the remarketing era’. The speaker pushed us to “stop chasing intent and start predicting intent”, attacking us for running 30 day cookie-driven remarketing ads selling products consumers have either bought already or no longer want. Instead, use the multitude of data signals to sell consumers what they’re wanting right now

6. Not all of the speakers were Googlers. The CMO of Homeway gave a talk where he told us to hire “lazy but curious talent”, as they’d apply their brains to finding smart solutions to complex problems

He also told us, counterintuitively, to “not define success by what it is but instead by what it isn’t”, saying that rather than making complex long shot forecasts on what might succeed, instead focus on the mass of quick win no-brainer fixes to the present situation. (i.e. faster loading speeds, ending stalky irrelevant remarketing ads and clunky checkout experiences)

7. A great shopping talk told us to; a) connect with shoppers at every step b) drive action by removing friction c) accelerate with insights and automation

8. There is also a clear push to position YouTube as a direct TV alternative - to safeguard this premium positioning “Top priority is high quality, brand safe inventory”

In Conclusion

The above is a pathetic summary of a 3 day long information blizzard that pushed us to evolve our business faster so as not to get blown away by the AI digital future accelerating towards us.

To top it all off, on the last night they laid on a concert by R&B star John Legend. 10 Grammy’s to his name, as well as the new voice of Google Assistant - what’s not to love?

Thank you for a great few days and roll on San Jose 2019!