R.I.P. Google TV Ads

Posted on Friday, August 31st, 2012 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, News, SEM

Google announced plans to shutter its Google TV Ads product yesterday. While not shocking, the announcement is certainly disappointing.

Google TV Ads had its flaws (a minor one being the potential for confusion with Google’s similarly-named consumer set-top box technology, GoogleTV — which isn’t going anywhere), but represented an innovative leap for television media buying by adding the self-service model so successful for search.

A separate section within AdWords (a smart idea expanded recently with AdWords for Video, the YouTube buying section), Google TV Ads allowed advertisers to upload their commercial(s) and bid on ad inventory by targeting specific programs or network day parts. For marketers used to AdWords, the learning curve was short. The tool for finding new programs to add or block was fast and easy to use, and bidding and budgeting were fairly intuitive. Google even included projection models to help with media planning and a website to help advertisers find production partners. The potential audience, while representing only about half of cable viewers, was still huge. The reporting wasn’t as fast as we’re used to with search ads, but it was fast for TV, and very robust.

In retrospect, however, it’s not hard to see why Google TV Ads struggled to win advertisers. For a lot of businesses, the fact that all campaigns were national made Google TV Ads a non-starter. For other advertisers new to TV advertising (the ideal audience for Google TV Ads), producing a television commercial was too high a hurdle. For SEMs, the lack of conversion data compared to online campaigns made bidding difficult. And the self-service bidding model, with no guaranteed inventory, would not be an easy transition for traditional television media buyers.

Despite the huge opportunity in online video ads—on which Google says it will now focus even more—this decision represents a retreat of ambition by Google. Television is still the number one recipient of advertising dollars. With Google TV Ads, Google created an entry point for smaller companies into television and also hinted at a possible future of addressable TV, where ads could be bought to target specific geographic and demographic audiences. Until yesterday, it was possible to see this as only a few (large) engineering challenges away.

In the end I suspect it was a combination of sales challenges and competition for engineering resources at Google that did Google TV Ads in. The holy grail of addressable TV is still out there, but a new knight will have to take up the search for it.

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5 Responses to “R.I.P. Google TV Ads”

  1. Mike Solomon says:

    Google (and TSA in the process of trying to sell this) realized two things here.

    1. The people within organization that are responsible for buying TV media are not the same people that buy digital media. So it was always hard to get access and buy in.

    2. The TV media buying industry is an animal unto itself with well worn relationships and ways of doing things. Buying TV on Google is not as much an efficiency play as it is an attribution exercise to understand the lift that TV is driving to digital. Traditional TV buyers might not want to necessarily shift attribution or have their TV buys scrutinized in a new way.

    3. Google realizes that multi-screen behavior is changing the way content is consumed and given the aforementioned reasons, they don’t necessarily need to win the traditional television ad space. If anything it might end up the traditional space continues to erode due to DVRs and consumers consuming content on computers, tablets, and smartphones, as well as connected TVs. Google might not need to win here and ultimately still win the space.

    • Alec Green says:

      Great post Michael and great insight Mike. Does seem like it’s a relatively small number of advertisers that are mature enough to invest in TV advertising, but not-so-mature as to have an established media-buying agency in place. Despite Google’s best efforts to grow this segment, perhaps there were too many external forces working against it.
      Still, it’s disappointing this wasn’t more successful as TV advertising could certainly benefit from the targeting and offline-online attribution features of AdWords.
      As Michael points out, he inability to geo-target the campaigns was a definite limitation. I have no idea if this was run through Google TV Ads, but in the past week, I’ve seen 20 ads for FarmersOnly.com — “Because city folks just don’t get it” while watching a soccer game at my house in Santa Monica.

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  3. As a direct response ad agency, our advertisers made great returns using GoogleTV. But it wasn’t good for the cable operators trying to sell ad time. It just exposed too much REAL information they’ve tried to hide through Nielsen ratings and bundling.

    I think the real causes on GoogleTV’s demise were economics and rate card visibility. The system did too much to expose old world inefficiencies by the cable operators.

    Pay for performance calculations were just too obvious once the rating information came over the next day for all viewers. In essence, you can cut out ineffective ad runs too easily and the broadcasters hated that targeting. With set top box data mashed up against response, an advertiser could excise nonperforming viewership and trim fat ad budgets waaaayyyy to easily.

    So I think Admira and GoogleTV both found huge conflict in maintaining inventory as well as obtaining the underlying data . There was just too much ‘channel’ conflict.

    By joining GoogleTV, multiple system operators (MSOs) had to divulge actual ratings measured by the set top box. On a 100 channel system, that is 19,200 spots a day they want to sell at top dollar.

    It’s my experience that cable operators want to sell on a cost per spot basis. But it’s pretty darn hard for them to get advertiser support at an effective $5-$6 CPMs when the same inventory can be had at auction for as little as $.25 CPM.

    I sure hope someone comes along to replace GoogleTV. I’ll be the first to try it out and support it again.

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