Google and Mastercard reportedly drafted a secret deal in which certain Google advertisers had access to data that shows if an online ad resulted in a purchase in a physical store. Bloomberg, citing four people with knowledge of the deal, reported that for the past year, select Google advertisers had access to a tool that tracks whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the U.S. The insight, according to the Bloomberg report, came via Mastercard transaction data that Google paid for. What's more, most of the 2 billion Mastercard holders aren’t aware of this tracking because the companies never told the public about the arrangement.
Google paid Mastercard millions for the data, according to Bloomberg, and the companies discussed sharing a portion of the ad revenue. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment to Bloomberg about the partnership with Mastercard, but said in a statement that it launched a beta product last year with a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents Google and its partners "from viewing our respective users’ personally identifiable information. We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners.” The statement also said people "can opt out of ad tracking using Google’s ‘Web and App Activity’ online console." Seth Eisen, a Mastercard spokesman, also declined to comment to Bloomberg specifically on Google. However, he said Mastercard shares transaction trends with merchants and service providers to help them measure "the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.” The information, which includes sales volumes and average order sizes, is shared only with permission of the merchants, Eisen added.
Total Retail's Take: While there's no confirmation that this tracking did take place, if it did, it would give Google the ability to measure the impact digital ads have on physical retail spending unlike any of its rivals. It also fits into Google's larger effort to net more retail spending. Advertisers currently spend money on Google to glean valuable insight into the link between digital ads and online purchases, but trying to figure out if they influence offline behavior is a harder nut to crack. This would help, and give retailers an incentive to spend more with Google. However, it also raises privacy issues since Google has been using and acquiring the data without the permission of consumers.