Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Who needs a Neilsen? Television ads + measurement

Seemingly everyday Google announces some "ah, that's the next step in their master plan" innovation. That continuous innovation--borne of continuous experimentation--is one reason Google has a market cap north of $132 billion.

And so Google's announcement of an advertising partnership with NBC Universal should come as little surprise to anyone watching as Google brings the discipline of innovation, experimentation and analytics to the domains of traditional advertising.

In this partnership, Google will be able to sell ad space on selected NBC cable properties, such as MSNBC and Oxygen. Already, Google has agreements with DISH Network that allow it to measure the second-by-second behavior of subscribers using data that flows through the set top box. 

So What: Just another ad network?

One thing Google has done with search advertising is deliver realtime measurement and testing of ad performance (at the level of the individual) where the metric is the click. What this move--and the agreement with Dish enable--is the same realtime measurement and testing of ads based on the click--where the click in this case is with the remote control.

And while clicks are not necessarily sales, it does take television ad effectiveness discussions down a path of precision...where what works and what doesn't for traditional metrics like attention are no longer academic discussions. If an ad starts playing and someone clicks to another channel, well, that says something powerful about the impact of the ad on that individual.

The granularity and realtime availability of such data--as opposed to the abstractions of research panels, Neilsen Households or focus groups--combined with the massive analytical capabilities and tools that Google already has in place will drive costs out of advertiser's measurement efforts. And that enables access.  

Being able to test ad versions for effectiveness may exert downward pressure on ad production costs as advertisers expect multiple ads for in-situ testing rather than relying on focus groups to adequately reflect the market's tastes and sensibilities.

As it has already begun in online, radio, and local print, this step into National Cable TV should help advertisers better understand what their prospects do--and do not--appreciate. 

In an age where an audience cannot be held captive, keeping them appreciative is the only road to success.  Google appears bound and determined to ensure that advertisers have the tools to know with certainty whether they are successful in that regard, regardless of the media vehicle employed. 

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