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Google Ad Manager knocked offline for more than three hours

The incident prevented publishers from automatically exchanging their ad inventories, potentially causing big losses for those affected

Google Ad Manager experienced a prolonged outage on Thursday night, potentially costing prominent websites thousands of pounds in lost ad revenue.

A large percentage of online businesses rely on Ad Manager, the search giant’s advertising revenue engine, to automatically exchange and profit from third-party advertising, a process curtailed while the service was down.

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During the roughly three hour outage, affected users were unable to list available ad inventory or sell advertising space to third-party buyers, although they still had access to their Google Ad Manager dashboards. Along with the outage of services, users reported unexpected errors and network issues.

Google Ad Manager accounts for 90% of the online advertising market in the United States, indicating that if widespread, the outage could have a large impact on the revenue of businesses in this region alone. Since the rise of AdTech and real-time bidding for publisher ad inventory, advertising services have increasingly relied on the service for insight into advertising campaigns as well as automated revenue optimisation.

Social media posts suggest that the outage affected users in Japan as well as the United States, but Google has not specified whether the outage was regional or international.

“We're investigating reports of an issue with Google Ad Manager. We will provide more information shortly. The affected users are able to access Google Ad Manager, but are seeing error messages, high latency, and/or other unexpected behaviour,” Google Ads said in a 01:06 UTC status update on its dashboard.

Reuters reported that Google had ranked the incident as a ‘P0’ event, an internal code for the most serious possible problem to fix. The relatively long turnaround between recognising the incident and restoring service raises questions around the complexity of underlying cause.

A follow-up post, put up a little over three and a half hours after the initial report, stated that the problem had been resolved without providing explanation for what first prompted the incident. How many businesses were significantly affected by the outage is still unclear, but many are likely to have missed out on key advertising analytics throughout the blackout, in addition to missed profit opportunities.

However, in a counterintuitive way, the outage could have been revealing for some of the affected publishers. In 2017, Adidas experienced an outage in Google Ads that lasted for two days, preventing it from investing in paid search for the period. Despite the outage, the firm discovered that it received a similar amount of traffic and revenue through search engine optimisation (SEO), revealing that it over-investing into its Google Ads strategy. A later outage that lasted for a full week resulted in another negligible drop in revenue, prompting the company to reevaluate its advertising campaigns.

Reports that customers experienced an ‘ad free internet’ during the outage exaggerated the issue, which did not affect adverts provided through other services, nor advertising on Google platforms such as YouTube.

IT Pro has approached Google for comment.

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