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Google Enlists Nielsen in TV Ad Push

Posted by: Rob Hof on October 23, 2007

We haven’t heard much of Google TV Ads since it was announced last April, with a deal to run ads on EchoStar Communications’ DISH network. The search giant is hoping to jumpstart its push into selling ads on television with a multiyear deal it’s announcing on Wednesday with Nielsen Co.—though Google will still face big challenges to getting even a foothold in the 60-year-old medium.

Google ">will buy Nielsen's demographic data and combine it with aggregated data from TV settop boxes of its 13 million subscribers to provide information on how ads are doing. Very detailed information. Google already can tell which ads get skipped, precisely when they get skipped, and other details. Nielsen's data will overlay that with demographic information, so you could tell, for instance, that women Republicans in the West turned off a particular ad at a particular time. The content of those ads, or the people they're targeted to, potentially could be shifted the next day to be more effective.

Ultimately, all this could bring Web-style measurement and accountability to TV audiences. "We can make advertising even more relevant to the viewer at home," says Mike Steib, director of the Google TV Ads program and former general manager of strategic ventures for NBC Universal. He says one advertiser, for instance, saw that the "tuneout" time on one ad came quite early, so the advertiser rethought where the "call to action" appeared in the ad. He says a "good number" of advertisers, which range from those among the top dozen TV advertisers to much smaller ones, are spending "seven-figure" budgets with Google TV Ads, which is still in beta test mode.

Clearly, though, all this could disrupt the way ads are created, sold and eventually targeted, so it's no surprise that while it's great for advertisers, ad agencies and buyers may be rather less enamored of these developments. And that's just one of Google's challenges. EchoStar may be a decent start, but it doesn't provide as much ability to target demographically, because its audience is scattered around the country, as advertisers would like. Digital cable systems, by contrast, can target demographic market areas with relative precision.

At the same time, Google has alienated some of the companies it needs to work with, in particular with its YouTube video sharing site. As a unit of a huge content owner, Time Warner Cable may be reticent to work with Google. And Comcast recently signed a search deal for its Web site with Yahoo!, not Google, even though Google must have been in the running. "The challenge is Google can only do this if it makes the media owners happy," says Nick Grouf, CEO of Spot Runner, an Internet ad agency that helps local businesses advertise on TV.

Finally, it's uncertain what kind of ad inventory Google is selling ads for. The company says it has inventory for all time slots, so it's not just unappealing time slots that went unsold to date. But some observers aren't so sure there's much prime inventory available, especially given that cable networks may fear that Google's auction format could usurp their control over pricing.

It's a little surprising that Google's tech wizards didn't try to do this on their own (or at least that they didn't do it well enough). But Steib said Google simply didn't have the data to allow reporting on ad performance by demographic categories that Nielsen can provide. In fact, the companies said they're going to "explore a number of other opportunities to work together to measure online and other media." So this doesn't sound like a one-off deal.

Regardless of the challenges, Google appears to be putting more miles between its TV ad initiative and eBay's, which has stalled. In any case, the deal with Nielsen indicates Google's quite serious about moving beyond the Web to all kinds of media.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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