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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Will Google AdWords on TV change the market?

google tv
Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/dadalo/

Google has announced that it has taken its new TV Ads programme out of beta. Go see it for yourself here.

In theory, TV Ads is designed to democratize TV advertising in the same way that AdWords changed the online display market.

I’ll be following this with great interest over the coming months. Could it successfully change the TV ad buying market? While early days, I am sceptical. TV advertising is an inherently complex beast. At the moment, the system is severely limited, and I’m wondering whether it can evolve to incorporate the nuances of the TV advertising market.

There are several (fairly incoherent, I’m afraid) questions that are buzzing around my head at the moment regarding both the programme and the marketplace.

Questions regarding the programme, and Google itself

  1. It is currently only available on the Dish Satellite network, a fairly small broadcast company. It makes more sense to dip the toe in the water first, but it is inherently limiting to the campaign. If it is a success, would larger broadcasters follow?
  2. Unlikely, because mainstream companies won’t allow Google to hold information on their technology or customers. Can a compromise be reached on data ownership?
  3. Speaking of compromise, could this endeavour dilute Google’s brand? AdWords makes a big thing out of contextual placement and targeting. TV Ads doesn’t offer any form of behavioural targeting. Will Google roll targeting out once they have accumulated enough set-top data?
  4. On a targeting theme, advertisers can only specify (quite broad) dayparts at the moment. How long before they can purchase specific programme slots or audiences?
  5. Finally, the Ad Creation software looks a bit suspicious. I quote, “It’s difficult to suggest a standard price – you might expect to spend anywhere between $100 and $1000 for your ad”. I have no idea what sort of creative agencies are signed up (not very expensive ones, by the look of it), but it shouldn’t be a production line. Is airing a bad ad better than airing no ad at all?

Questions regarding the marketplace

  1. It is obviously a new model. Can an open auction replace agencies? Personally, I don’t think so. In many ways, agency opacity can be beneficial. How often do agencies pay list price for spots? Deals, favours and mutual back-scratching are par for the course. This flexibility works for both parties in the long term
  2. Another strength of agencies is their size. They drive down price, and can switch inventory between clients when one runs into a problem. The open auction offers a different level of protection. No contract (other than T&C’s) and daily editing means advertisers can pull out at the last moment if problems are reached. If an advertiser pulls out, where does that leave the TV company? Last minute shuffling to avoid dead air space?
  3. A final aspect of agencies to remember is their multimedia expertise. Campaigns can be TV-only, but they don’t have to be. Rarely do brands advertise purely on TV and no-where else. So, if an advertiser is having to go elsewhere for their press or online advertising, would it not be better to give TV to the same buyer? Particularly if the TV spots are the focal point of the campaign
  4. And this is probable because TV is the mass medium. It has scale. It can reach more people at a quicker rate than other media. Is it really the right medium for budget operators? Yes, digital fragmentation means there are hundreds of niche satellite channels. But these are all national channels. While the Intertet makes national selling easy, it is often best to start small in a region and work your way up. Will a national niche campaign be too inefficient?
  5. And finally, is democracy always a good thing? TV companies have the prerogative to refuse to air ads. Google makes it clear that all ads need to conform to editorial guidelines, but I’d be interested to see how this is enforced or upheld. Will they be able to prevent ads contravening guidelines – whether through politics or “taste and decency” slipping through the net? And more worringly, could we soon be seeing spam ads on TV? I wouldn’t rule it out, and this is not going to impress the channel operators or programme makers

Time will hopefully provide the answers to these ramblings.

I’d be very interested to hear other people’s views on this. Do you think this venture will be successful? What potential pitfalls do you see on the horizon?