Questions For Google On BT Plan

Just last week, we awoke to the riveting news that Google had reversed their previous corporate decision and will now enter into the Behavioral Targeting (BT) arena. Not a surprising move to those of us in the industry given that their core business, search engine marketing, is forecasted by industry experts to fall back into 2nd place with advertisers and their media budgets.

At the recent OMMA Behavioral Conference, data was shared that behavioral targeting spend will exceed paid search spend by 2020. I'll place my bet down now that it will be much sooner than this given Google's "about face."

The big question around the Google announcement is what advertisers should expect. While the opt-in maintenance feature that allows management of your interest classifications is nice, this is an option various other BT providers will be providing shortly. The challenges that advertisers must face is whether the new behavioral targeting options provided can help improve advertising effectiveness on an ad network with limited minimum qualifications such as Google AdSense. As our parents advised us in our youth, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Before we get excited about Google's entry into BT and start reorganizing our media plans, we need to get a few questions answered. Here are a few questions I would pose:

• A large percentage of the banners in your network are below the fold where nobody can see the ad. How will BT fix this issue? Will the BT automatically command the browser to scroll down against the user's will?

• If your primary targeting data is search engine query behavior, will it be too late for the BT by the time a banner ad is served?

• If the data is primarily pull marketing driven, how does Google's BT help brand advertisers?

While it is good to see increased competition entering the marketplace, and Google should be lauded for putting aside its complacency, it is pretty clear that Google is years behind the competition and they have a huge learning curve to catch up with major players in the industry. It starts with quality inventory, a direction that most ad networks began traveling down about 18 months ago.

Much of BT's success is that it is applied to premium RON inventory, something that Google AdSense is lacking. BT cannot turn coal into a diamond all by itself and Google will learn this lesson the hard way. No miraculous algorithm will get online users to interact with ads that are not visible to them.

What was most disappointing about Google's press release is that outside of the interest category management feature, they really don't seem to be bringing anything new in terms of approach to the marketplace. When various companies are launching next-generation technologies that bridge offline and online data, Google's BT solution arrived with more fanfare around privacy concerns than its lack of new cutting edge ideas. With so much rich offline data available that can improve online behavioral targeting and predictive ad delivery, Google has missed out on the direction that BT is clearly headed and that its competitors are already working on.

It will be interesting to watch Google's next move and their commitment to this new advertising channel for their business. In the meantime, it might be wise to let Google learn on someone else's marketing budget until we know more.

1 comment about "Questions For Google On BT Plan".
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  1. Andre Szykier from maps capital management, March 20, 2009 at 9:26 p.m.

    RON ads are the "paid programming" you see on cable in the morning hours. Few watch so the price is low.

    I always believed that RON space could be used for creative purposes:

    Community action
    Social Initiatives
    Creative Art (amateur ads)
    Political Action
    Energy Consciousness
    Alternative Healing
    Games and Puzzles

    At the least, I would not be bored and more important, that ad space would become more relevant in my visual space. Who knows, when an ad appeared, I just might spend more than a microsecond looking at it.

    This RON real estate is poorly managed.

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