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Google TV and SEM: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Holding over 30% of the U.S. television market and a span of 42 million households and counting, Google TV [1] advertising is becoming more of a serious competitor in the TV world than ever. With its recent partnership with Cox Communications, announced [2] on January 9, Google TV continues to expand its inventory. Straight from the horse’s mouth (the Google TV blog): “As a result of this partnership, advertisers who use Google TV Ads will have access to inventory on over 75 networks across Cox’s channel lineup.”

Cox currently has a total of 6 million [3] customers and is the third largest cable operator in the US. Combining Google’s optimized tracking and targeting power with the reach of a national television audience (still the number one American media consumption) is a goliath move in offline advertising. The question then becomes: If we combined Google TV with a medium like SEM or YouTube, what sort of capabilities would we be extending?

Google TV ads’ setup is actually very similar to an auto-placement content campaign in AdWords. The Google TV campaign is broken down into networks (ad groups) and programs (placements). The 30- or 60-second creative is similar to a YouTube or other video ad.

Google TV ads’ targeting [4] options are plentiful. Dayparting, interest/topic, network, program, and/or audience targeting and exclusion are currently available for all TV campaigns. For example, in a Buy My Audience campaign, we could target only households with women 55+ (data from Nielsen, Equifax and Experian), Monday through Thursday, 12 PM-8 PM, on The Hallmark Channel—and only pay for those views within the demographic, yielding dirt-cheap CPMs.

One client of mine at The Search Agency with multiple TV campaigns — a few targeting interest/topic and another targeting a specific demographic — was actually paying only $3.81 CPM for the demographic target versus anywhere from $4.59 to $17.52 CPM for the interest targets. The interest-targeted campaigns were then paused, and optimization continued with the demographic-targeted campaign. The best approach to targeting is to start on the broad side, figure out which campaigns, networks, and programs are performing best, and optimize from there.

Programs or networks that are outside the scope of the demographic are best eliminated beforehand, though. The blocking process, eliminating negative keywords and placements, is almost as important as the targeting process. Once high- and low-performing networks and programs are identified, they can be targeted and bid on or blocked separately.What Google has done by turning the television advertising experience into an optimized and targeted project, like SEM and YouTube In-Stream, is certainly the next step in offline marketing.

It’s safe to assume that if Google TV combined its growing popularity with these established media, advertising possibilities and brand reinforcement could be limitless. Consider a study conducted by Google and lpsos that included six different advertisers. They divided their test audience into three different groups: one that watched only a 30-second Google TV creative, one that watched only a 15-second YouTube creative, and one that watched both.

According to Google, “People who watched both YouTube and TV ads showed a 2X increase in brand recall than people who only saw TV ads. Those that only watched a YouTube ad had a brand recall rate 1.5X those who only watched a TV ad.” While the YouTube ad definitely had more of an impact than the TV ad, the TV ad and YouTube ad in conjunction [5] had the most power.

So what does this mean for the future of SEM? With smartphone sales higher than ever, America’s time spent offline is undoubtedly decreasing. However, more than half the households in the country have over three televisions (Nielsen). The bottom line is that when we’re not staring at a computer screen, we’re staring at a TV screen. It only makes sense to combine the advertising we see all day on our computers and smartphones with the advertising we see on our televisions in the evening.

Mike Jarvinen, VP of Marketing Strategy at The Search Agency states, “Barriers to entry in minimums and addressable targeting are finally breaking down in the space, allowing new TV advertisers to drive demand back to the lowest cost SEM terms for incremental lift.”

2012 will bring more cross-media advertising than ever, and we’ve got to prepare for it by maintaining collaborative types of campaigns. So what are some rules to follow? Make it a priority to refresh creative for YouTube and Google TV ads once every month or two, optimize network and program targeting, and reinforce the same message in text and image ads across the Google search and display networks.

The Search Agency’s Grant Simmons, Group Account director, writes, “Google TV is waiting to be reinvented as a viable consumer alternative (it will happen), but in the meantime other competitors are looking at non-computer device search as an opportunity to tie together everyday life with the ability to find solutions to ‘in the moment’ problems.”

Our online and offline worlds are becoming blurred. We need an advertising strategy that reflects this change. Google TV, hand-in-hand [6] with SEM and YouTube, might just be the answer.


About Kalle Tompros

Kalle Tompros is an SEM Associate Creative Editor at The Search Agency in Los Angeles. She is a recent graduate of University of Southern California majoring in English/Creative Writing. While relatively new to the Search world, she finds SEM quite fascinating, and is always eager to learn more.