Google's TV Ad Plan

TVB talk may offer clues about new software

Mike Steib will face an important audience next month, and he's looking forward to it.

As director of the Google TV Ads program, he will give the keynote talk at the Television Bureau of Advertisers (TVB) Annual Marketing Conference. Broadcasters are probably just as eager to hear from him, having been wondering what to make of Google's entry into the market.

Google TV Ads is built on top of the same basic ad marketplace software as AdWords, the self-service system advertisers use to purchase keyword search advertisements on Google and affiliated Websites.

Google doesn't produce the commercials, although it has assembled a network of video production companies that can help new TV advertisers. Videos submitted through the system also “go through a rigorous vetting process,” says Steib, who formerly served as general manager of strategic ventures for NBC.

Google is promising that it will deliver measurable results, though it has to make deals with cable operators to get that data.

To date, Google has mostly focused on distributing ads through a partnership with EchoStar's Dish Network and some cable systems. Google TV Ads uses set-top box data to determine the actual viewership for any advertisement and charges on that basis.

Broadcasters like Scott Blumenthal, executive VP of television for LIN Broadcasting, are watching warily. “I'd never want to let technology turn this medium into a commodity and minimize its value,” he says.

There could also be an upside for broadcast and cable companies, says Sara Foss, executive VP at Video Communications, a software vendor. “What Google did in radio is what I anticipate they are going to do in TV—bring new business to the table,” she says. “I saw the effect to be additive, not competitive, and that is good for our customers.”

—David F. Carr