What Is Multiple Customer Management (MCM)?

Brock Munro
February 12, 2024
February 27, 2024
What Is Multiple Customer Management (MCM)?

Google Ad Exchange is an advanced solution for publishers looking to increase their revenue from display ads. It allows multiple advertisers and buyer networks to bid for publisher inventory in real time. Until 2021, the key to this marketplace lay in Google’s Scaled Partner Management (SPM) program. 

Despite its immense popularity among small and medium-sized publishers, the search giant chose to phase out SPM and replace it with a brand-new tool—the Multiple Customer Management (Google MCM) feature on the Ad Manager (GAM). 

In 2024, MCM will celebrate its third year of existence. Why was Google forced to switch from SPM to MCM? Is MCM better than its predecessor? Why should publishers consider switching from AdSense to AdX in 2024? 

These are some of the many questions we will answer in this detailed review and comparison guide for Google SPM and MCM.

Table of contents:

• What Is Google Scaled Partner Management (SPM)?

• What Is Google Multiple Customer Management (MCM)?

Why Did the Google MCM Program Replace Google SPM?

Types of Delegation in Google MCM

Manage Account vs. Manage Inventory—Key Differences

Benefits of Qualified Google MCM Program

How to Get Started with Google MCM?

Apply for the Google MCM Program

Final Thoughts

What Is Google Scaled Partner Management (SPM)?

Scaled Partner Management (SPM) was a service that allowed small publishers to access Google Ad Exchange marketplace through Google Certified Publishing Partners.  

Unlike a typical ad network such as AdSense, publishers cannot simply sign up for AdX. This is why Google has a partner program to certify agencies that provide support services to other publishers. These qualified partners are usually adtech companies specializing in ad ops.

The SPM feature allowed these channel partners to offer adtech services and Google ad manager account access to smaller publishers in exchange for a service fee, or ad revenue-sharing deals. It was the only way smaller publishers could sell their ad inventories on AdX. 

Apart from AdX access, channel partners also offered other specialized services like ad revenue optimization, yield management, and ad optimization. These usually require an experienced ad ops team, which most small publishers cannot afford. 

The smaller publishers who wanted to access AdX through SPM were called “child publishers”, while the AdX channel partners who managed the ad inventories of child publishers were called “parent publishers”.  

The Scaled Partner Management program was launched by Google in 2014. After nearly eight years, the program was shut down and replaced by Multiple Customer Management in 2021-2022. 

What Is Google Multiple Customer Management (MCM)?

Multiple Customer Management or Google MCM is a feature in Google Ad Manager 360 (GAM 360) that allows publishers to sell their ad inventory on various Google platforms like the AdX marketplace through third-party agencies. 

An MCM partner is usually a third-party adtech company that has fulfilled Google’s strict quality requirements related to copyright infringement, ad fraud protection, account violations and copyright infringement violations.

GAM 360 is an advanced cloud-based ad management platform for a stable ad management environment. While Google Ad Manager is freely available to all publishers regardless of their size or reach, GAM 360 is a paid version typically available only to larger publishers who meet certain minimum traffic requirements. Google does not publicly disclose the exact volume of traffic required to be available for GAM 360. 

Just like its predecessor, the MCM program tool creates a relationship between two parties—a Google Certified Publishing Partner (the parent publisher), and the child publisher. The parent publishers can handle and manage ad inventories of multiple child publishers on Google’s Ad Manager 360.  

Why Did the Google MCM Program Replace Google SPM?

Google decided to switch from SPM to MCM because the former had become outdated over time.  

SPM was originally launched in 2014 as a component of ad exchange. Back then, Google had two major services for publishers and advertisers—AdX and DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP). It later also launched the mobile equivalent of DFP and Adsense called AdMob. If all this sounds like too many acronyms, have a look at our Google AdX vs AdMob comparison that explains in detail about each of these platforms.

Due to its outdated design, SPM had major drawbacks that clashed with Google’s vision for the future of its ad services platform. Three major issues stood out in particular: 

1. Difficulty in Adding New Features

SPM was conceived at a time when both AdX and DFP were separate platforms. The landscape of digital ads and Google's products has evolved significantly over the past decade. Integrating the latest features into SPM was becoming more difficult and expensive.

2. Lack of Transparency for Child Publishers

SPM put child account publishers at a disadvantage due to its general lack of transparency in key areas. Only parent account publishers had full visibility and control over child ad inventories. Child publishers were forced to leave everything in the hands of their channel partners and hope for the best. 

3. Lack of Permission Management Options

Some publishers often require constant access to their ad inventories. With SPM, this was not possible as the parent publishers did not have any option to delegate access to or control over ad inventories. The system was sorely lacking in permission management. 

Google addressed these pain points through the introduction of different types of delegation options in MCM, which is what we turn our attention to next.

Types of Delegation in Google MCM

Google MCM offers publishers two unique delegation types, with major differences across virtually every key aspect of the relationship between parent and child publishers: 

1. Manage Account Delegation

When a child publisher’s account choses this model, the parent publisher gets full edit access to their GAM account. They will manage your entire ad inventory while you continue to enjoy full access to the settings. 

This model might be a good fit for you if:

  • You want to retain control over your inventory 
  • You are comfortable with granting a third-party full access to your GAM account
  • You want to rely on a single parent-publisher

2. Manage Inventory Delegation

When you select this model as a child publisher, you can choose to assign segments of your ad inventory to multiple parent publishers. A parent publisher manages the inventory through their GAM 360 accounts. Consequently, you cannot access or view these settings. 

Manage inventory delegation may be the better option in the following situations: 

  • You don’t need access/visibility to the ad inventory settings
  • You don't have a GAM account with AdX enabled currently
  • You want to engage multiple parent publishers simultaneously 

Manage Account vs. Manage Inventory—Key Differences

The main differences between ‘mcm manage account delegation’ and ‘mcm manage inventory delegation’ revolve around the aspects of GAM account access, inventory access, ad trafficking visibility, and payment destination.

Incidentally, publishers don't necessarily have to choose one over the other—child publishers can retain both types of delegation in Google MCM. However, there are some important restrictions:

  • You can have only one "manage account" parent. 
  • You can have up to 15 manage inventory parents. 
  • A parent publisher cannot simultaneously be under both delegation types. 

As evident from the above rules, there is a significant difference in the number of publishers you can engage with under each delegation type. While the ‘manage account’ is limited to one parent publisher, ‘manage inventory’ can accommodate up to 15 MCM program partners. 

The next major difference is centered around the GAM account used to manage inventory. In ‘manage account’, the parent publisher will use the child publisher’s GAM account. In ‘manage inventory’, the parent publishers have to use their GAM accounts to monetize your ad inventory.  

Depending on the choice of GAM account, the level of access and visibility for child publishers will also vary drastically. In ‘manage account’, you have full access to your inventory settings. In ‘manage inventory’, the opposite is true since it involves the parent publisher GAM accounts.

You can find a quick summary of the differences between ‘manage account’ and ‘manage inventory’ delegation in this handy table:

Key Aspect Managed Account Managed Inventory
Number of permitted parent publishers A child publisher can only allow account access to one parent publisher A child publisher can engage up to 15 different parent publishers
Child publisher inventory access The child publisher can access and manage the ad inventory settings Child publishers cannot access the ad inventory settings
Parent publisher GAM access Parent publishers have full access to the child publisher’s GAM account Parent publishers don't have access to the child publisher's GAM account
Ad trafficking The child publisher has full visibility over trafficking settings within their own GAM account Child publishers cannot access ad trafficking settings since they are in the parent GAM account
Tagging source Child publishers have to use tags from their own GAM account Child publishers have to use tags from the parent GAM account
Payments destination Only one possible destination – the earnings are always sent to the parent publisher account Two options – send to the parent ad network or the child network.

Benefits of Qualified Google MCM Program

MCM offers publishers all the benefits that were available through Google SPM, along with a few other new bonuses.These include:

Access Google AdX Easily 

With the deprecation of SPM, MCM is now the only way for small publishers to expose their inventory to the premium ad exchange marketplace. Unlike high-risk strategies such as Google AdSense arbitrage, moving your inventory to AdX offers clear and tangible ad revenue growth prospects.

Direct Access to Other Ad Exchanges

MCM is a feature of the unified GAM 360 platform, which combines older marketplaces like AdX. It allows smaller publishers to access other third-party ad exchanges through the open bidding process on DFP (now called Google Ad Manager). 

Access to Trusted Ad Ops Expertise

Google has imposed strict quality criteria for the MCM program. This ensures that publishers have access to highly trusted third party partners who have all been extensively vetted by Google for reliability and adtech expertise. Developing similar capabilities in-house can be a prohibitively expensive task for most small or medium-sized publishers.  

Supports Programmatic Deals

Unlike SPM, MCM also supports automated ad-selling technologies like Preferred Deals and Programmatic Guaranteed on GAM. With these services, publishers have more options beyond traditional auctions and the Google open bidding process. Using the programmatic ecosystem, publishers can find one-on-one deals at guaranteed volumes with lower commissions than auctions. 

Centralized and Flexible

MCM allows publishers to manage multiple clients and accounts on a single GAM platform. With custom permissions and access levels, publishers have granular control over the management of their ad inventory and clients. 

Security and Ad Fraud Prevention

Google has taken several steps to allay user privacy concerns. The decision to do away with third-party cookies is a case in point. The same approach is also evident in MCM, with an overt focus on enhanced security. These include stringent vetting policies in place for selecting partners and putting safeguards in place to protect inventories against ad fraud.

How to Get Started with Google MCM? 

Before you can get started with the MCM program as a child publisher, you have to ensure that you are eligible for the program. Although not as strict as the guidelines for MCM parent publishers, these basic requirements are mandatory for access to Google MCM.  

Eligibility Criteria for the Google MCM Program

The checklist for child publishers on MCM has the following basic criteria: 

1. A Google-Compliant Website

Your website must be compliant with Google's quality standards. During the application process, Google will conduct a compliance verification of your website. 

2. Original and Licensed Web Content

All the content published on your website must be 100% authentic, original, and/or licensed from the relevant sources. The website must not have any record of copyright infringements. 

3. No Promotion of Sensitive Content

Publishers that promote or feature sensitive content like gambling, pornography, and violence are not eligible for Google’s MCM program. 

4. Containing A Valid ads.txt File

The ads.txt file was designed to combat ad fraud and ensure that advertisers can purchase digital media with confidence from their original owners. Your website must contain a valid ads.txt file to qualify for the MCM program. 

Apply for the Google MCM Program 

Publishers can access Google MCM through a verified partner. Here is a step-by-step guide to the application process for Google MCM: 

1. Get a GAM Account with Admin Access

You need a GAM account to connect with parent publishers and gain access to the various services and features of MCM. If you don’t have one, you can either build one from scratch or use your existing AdSense account email ID to create a new GAM account. If you have an existing GAM account, ensure that your user has admin access. 

2. Pick an Experienced MCM Partner

The most important step in the MCM application process is the selection of a qualified MCM partner. Try to do some background research and look for partners who have a record of low account terminations and no lock-in contracts. You can use the Find a Partner service to get a Google certified partner. Or you can consult the list of qualified Google approved publishing partners we’ve provided in the next section.

3. Select a Delegation Type

The next step is to decide whether you want a ‘manage account delegation’ or ‘manage inventory delegation’ for your MCM partnership. The choice here is usually based on your inventory visibility requirements, access control preferences, and ad monetization goals.

Setup Google MCM Program

Once you have finalized your MCM partner and type of delegation, you can move on to the setup phase. The MCM partner will send an email invitation to your GAM account or email ID linked to AdSense. Log into your GAM account, accept the invite, and follow the instructions to set up your MCM account.

For a new GAM account, the next step is to wait for Google to complete its verification of your application and background check of your website. This process can take anywhere from 2 days to 4 weeks. 

Once your GAM account is fully activated, the MCM partner (parent-published) can start managing your inventory or account, depending on the selected delegation type. You will have to add your child network code to a Google publisher tag or video tags to enable inventory management. The parent publisher will walk you through these steps if necessary.

Final Thoughts

MCM represents a logical step in the evolution of Google’s digital ads strategy. In terms of sheer versatility, flexibility, and supported features, it is miles ahead of its predecessor SPM. If you want to push beyond AdSense and unlock new revenue potential through AdX demand and programmatic deals, MCM is a no-brainer thanks to its ease of use and cost-effectiveness. 

As a Google Certified Publishing Partner with strong ad safety and 30+ premium ad partners, Publift can help you scale your GAM journey to the next level. We’ve been helping publishers realize an average of 55% increase in ad revenue since 2015. To learn more about how Publift can help you maximize ad revenue and achieve your growth targets, connect with our team of experts today.

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