Following in the footsteps of Facebook and Twitter, Google has leaked news of its own “custom audience” feature, ahead of this week's Advertising Week.
“Basically, advertisers will be able to take their customer files and match them against Google’s Gmail master file,” said one search marketing executive, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“From that list of matches, they can create an audience list from which to target ads across Google’s empire.”
Just like Facebook, the feature will include the ability to generate “lookalike” audiences, audiences with similar profiles to your own customers. This data is created from known demographic data (such as age and gender) but also from the vast mine of interest data which Google has from following so many journeys around the web from its search results, and within its own properties such as YouTube, Blogger and Google Plus.
Whilst Google would appear to lag Facebook's 1.5 billion users with its own 900 million Gmail accounts, it's reach in search, YouTube videos and Gmail is impressive, and some would say Google have far deeper knowledge of its users real interests.
It's Android mobile platform and Chrome browser give it additional opportunities to harness user data.
Markets have long awaited new moves from the advertising giant to catch up with the rapid innovation at Facebook but recognise that Google has had to move slowly on some innovative data-driven moves due to the far higher level of scrutiny, within the EU in particular, over data practices than Facebook currently faces.
These concerns will no doubt be raised by privacy groups as they are at every suggestion that any of the giants of the internet are using consumer data for advertising purposes.
Google already allows some audience targeting with its Retargeting Lists for search, but many users have struggled with it due to a lack of transparency on exactly when and where these ads are appearing.
Bigger brand owners will need more visibility in this area to unlock the budgets on a similar scale that are seen in Adwords and Facebook's platforms.