In late January, I had a nice meeting with Marin Software CEO Chris Lien, and we chatted about Google's new product listing ads (PLAs), which form the backbone of Google Shopping.
Separately, he also gave me this document, which describes the various ad prices and resulting performance on Google ads running separately on mobile devices, laptops, and tablets. The document describes search ad results from clients who spend $4 billion annually.
A few days later, on Feb. 6, Google changed its Adwords advertising interface in such a way that it prevented advertisers from running tablet-only ad campaigns. Google was accused of doing that to engineer a back-door price increase: Tablet ads are cheaper, some clients said, and perform better. To reach tablet users now, critics said, advertisers must also buy ads on laptops and those ads are more expensive.
(Google's defenders point out that the move was made to simplify the increasingly complicated universe of devices, and that laptops and desktops are indistinguishable in some cases.)
Marin's study, described in the document, shows some numbers that support Google's critics. Ads running on tablets are cheaper than those running on computers, and more effective, the document states:
Those ads will now become unavailable to advertisers.
Marin's representatives were reticent about the document after our talk. I also agreed to an embargo — a waiting period through Feb. 12 — in which I would not publish the info.
And then, on Feb. 13, Marin filed its S-1 papers to take the company public, a day after the embargo date.
The document doesn't say anything material about Marin's business, of course. Plenty of companies publish research on Google ad pricing. But Marin is one of Google's biggest single customers, handling billions in annual online spend across a variety of properties annually.
The company did not explain why it wanted the release of the document put on hold. Marin is now in its IPO "silent period." But it appears that the company successfully put some distance between the date of the Adwords change and some data that appears to fuel critics of its biggest trading partner.
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