Commentary

What Will Ads Look Like On Google TV?

As many of you know, Google introduced Google TV a couple of weeks ago at its I/O developer conference. Details have been posted via Google blog post , intro video, and developer guide.

The announcement featured grandiose sound-bytes like, "the best of TV and the best of the web in one seamless experience" and "spend a lot less time finding what you want and a lot more time watching what you want." Conspicuously missing, though, was any information about advertising via Google TV.

Turning to Google TV partners doesn't shed any light on potential ad formats. (It does, however, expose a potential branding problem Google has on its hands, as Sony calls it Internet TV and Intel calls it Smart TV. Only Logitech calls it Google TV.)

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Sure, as a consumer, I love the idea of Google doing for TV what it's done for the Web but, as a marketer, I also want to know how Google will do for TV what it's done for the Web.

By that, I mean, how will Google TV make television advertising more relevant, measurable, and profitable?

The only mention I could find related to advertising on Google TV was from the beginning of the presentation at Google I/O, when Rishi Chandra points out that there's $70 billion spent annually in the U.S. alone on TV advertising. So, clearly, TV advertising is on Google's radar. But nowhere in the rest of the footage from I/O -- including a panel moderated by Eric Schmidt with the CEOs of Intel, Sony, Logitech, DISH Network, Best Buy and Adobe, and all the official material posted online --  is there any discussion of how Google (or anyone else, for that matter) intends to capture a bigger share of that $70 billion in U.S. through Google TV.

Is it possible that Google, as it did with Web search, will launch a product without any advertising as a way to generate adoption? Perhaps. Although Google stands to reap plenty of revenue from search ads if more people use the Web on their TV sets. 

Nonetheless, on the off chance Google hasn't yet figured out the proper ad format for Google TV, I thought I'd share some suggestions.

First, let's go back to my point about Google doing to TV ads what it's done to Web ads. Critical to achieving success for all constituencies with TV -- advertisers, content developers, networks, Google, and technology partners -- alike is incorporating four key attributes of search ads:

1. Non-interruptive. With search ads, marketing messages don't obscure the content, they sit unobtrusively in the margins. And, with sponsored search listings, they reach people in between pages on the Web -- i.e., moving from one Web site to another. This is an aperture when people are generally more open to receiving third-party messages. With Google TV, it's critical that people don't have to leave the content they are consuming to view and/or interact with an ad.

2. Consumer initiation. With search ads, consumers are able to choose which ad (or advertiser) they want to engage with. And they don't have to engage with any at all if they don't want to. They can very well just click on an organic listing that best represents what they're looking for and bypass the ads altogether. With Google TV, there's opportunity to change the paradigm from forcing viewers to watch ads to letting them decide they want to. The onus should be on advertisers to make their messages appealing enough and on Google et al to display them in a relevant context.

3. Mass customization. With search ads, marketers can show a different message to each consumer based on what he/she is looking for. This is possible because we have overt intent data from search queries along with other cookie and, sometimes, registration data. Google TV brings a greater emphasis on keyword search and, accordingly, will yield a treasure trove of query data by which marketers can better target their messages. As Google notes in its I/O announcement, there are 4 billion TV users worldwide. The real opportunity is to reach them one at a time.

4. Performance-based pricing. With search ads, marketers only pay if/when their ad is clicked on. This ensures marketers are generating actual engagement with customers and potential customers, and not paying on the off chance that an ad resonated (or was even viewed). Google TV must incorporate some sort of performance metric in its pricing to bring accountability to the platform.

With these features in mind, here are three desired ad formats for Google TV:

1. Hotspotting. The technology to make specific items in video clickable has been around for a long time. I remember seeing this demo in Microsoft adCenter Labs at least three years ago. Call it product placement 2.0 or true content integration. This format certainly checks the non-interruptive and consumer-initiated boxes -- and there's no reason the message that appears when you click something can't be customized and performance-priced.

2. Ticker-text ads. Let's bring AdSense to the big screen. We're used to news tickers and, now, tweets, scrolling at the bottom of our TVs. Why not toss in some ads? Just make sure they're related to the content playing at the time. And keep them confined to the box at the bottom and not overlapping any content. Additionally, when people click on the ads, let them choose if they want to play a commercial for the brand or be taken straight to the Web site.

3. Personalized video ads. There's no doubt the reason TV ads are so popular is because of the opportunities to deliver sight, sound, and motion on a big screen. Well, that and the aforementioned reach. Those opportunities should still be available with Google TV. We just need to put viewers in control of which commercials they want to see and when they see them. I'd like to see click-to-play video ads appear only after entire blocks of content play. In other words, when a show is over, display related ads and content that viewers can watch next, and let them choose. I wouldn't even be opposed to requiring one or two ad views (of the consumer's choice) before the next piece of free content can be accessed.

I'm sure with more time -- and word count -- I could come up with a few more ideas. Perhaps I'll pick this back up in my next column. In the meantime, what do you think the killer ad format would be for Google TV?

5 comments about "What Will Ads Look Like On Google TV?".
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  1. Kyle Lake from Done In Sixty Seconds, LLC, June 2, 2010 at 3:50 p.m.

    Definitely agree with the points critical to success, especially point 3 on the desired ad formats. As with most effective advertising it will rest on content + placement and if google can successfully implement its web search prowess then it should be able to provide a highly targeted marketing platform.

    <a href="http://www.donein60.com/register.html" title="diss register">Try Out</a> Done In 60 Seconds.

  2. Sean Doherty from Wurl, Inc., June 2, 2010 at 6:50 p.m.

    I've been wondering the same thing. Google TV's business is all about *advertising* but the press is all about UI and plumbing (and spin). On top of that, there's an implied assumption that Google's potential control of the UI is going to give them some control of the ads. This would be a tectonic shift in the TV world (and Web world) where video content publishers control most of the ad sales.

    Also... One important clarification: the prersenter at Google I/O did say that there are 4 billion TVs worldwide. However, there are only about 700 million in TV-homes with broadband and/or pay TV services. This is the total available market for Google TV services.

  3. Matt Marshall, June 3, 2010 at 2:46 p.m.

    All of these ad formats seem like logical integrations for Google. I think that the best first step is going to be sticking to what they are good at - which is Search.

    I think that the most natural (and easiest way to monetize while not pissing off content providers) is to provide paid search suggestions.

    They already revealed their plans for algorithmic "natural" search suggestions. It only makes sense that they would incorporate adwords into Google TV search results.

    I think it will be some time into the product lifecycle until they will be conformable enough to incorporate anything like hotspoting or ticker ads (which are both potentially disruptive, albeit relevant.) Personalized video ads run the risk of pissing of main service and content providers who Google is going to need to get on it's side to really make this thing work.

  4. Aaron Goldman from 4C, June 3, 2010 at 9:35 p.m.

    Good feedback all, thx.

    Matt - always good to hear a POV from someone who pioneered interactive TV advertising. Still remember how you were part of the first Tivo e-commerce ad when you worked on the Dominos biz. :)

    Sean - he who controls the UI, controls the ads indeed. But, to Matt's point, it's unlikely they'd shake things up too quickly and risk pissing off the networks and content producers.

    Kyle - agreed, it's content + placement but also interactivity that makes advertising effective. That to me, is one of the biggest opportunities with true web/TV convergence.

  5. Geof Todd from NDS Ltd, August 18, 2010 at 11:02 a.m.

    Google offers the best of TV..?
    Please take look at http://www.locatetv.com/ and what is already being done for digital TV platforms around the world at http://www.nds.com/solutions/dynamic_advertising.php.
    Happy to take you through this in person at IBC Amsterdam in September
    http://www.nds.com/media_center/event_calendar.php

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