Google strengthens its ad business

Sign outside Google headquarters

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bob Moon: Google has kicked off a new service as part of its Google Ad Planner site. Advertisers can answer questions about the particular kind of customer they want to target and the Google site suggests places on the Internet that the particular audience is most likely to visit.

Of course, the common denominator in all this is Google itself, which just happens to dominate online ad distribution, and that may not click with some advertisers.

For more on this, we turn to Media Week Senior Editor Mike Shields. He follows online advertising trends.

Thanks for joining us.

Mike Shields: Thanks for having me.

Moon: Surprise, surprise, Google is expanding its reach again. So what's it doing this time?

Shields: Well, it looks like this time they want to get into the audience measurement space on the Internet, which is actually already an increasingly crowded one. Of course, Google is going to give its new product away for free, but they want to kind of further cement their relationship with advertisers by getting involved in online media planning.

Moon: So how is what Google is doing in advertising now different than the companies that have already been offering these audience measurement techniques?

Shields: The two established players in the industry, Nielsen and comScore, use panels and that's really something that a lot of people in the industry have complained about for a long time. That's really an old way of conducting research. It kind of goes back to radio and TV where you have a small sample of users to represent the entire audience, which kind of feels archaic in this web space. You know, Google still has to release some details on this thing, but it sounds like this new product is going to use a lot more real data from the Web, which I think should appeal to the agency world if they can stomach getting this close to Google in terms of giving up a lot of their control there.

Moon: You mentioned that Google is going to be offering this service for free. What do they get out of it?

Shields: That's a good question. Google kind of always presents these things as "We just want to help you out; we just want to be almost a friend to the community." Assuming they get a fair amount of agencies using this thing, it kind of helps deepen their relationships with these folks. The question is is this going to be 100 percent objective or are they going to use this to kind of influence ad spending a little more than they do. I'm sure they'll say that that's not going to be the case, but it's a little unclear exactly what they get out of it.

Moon: Yeah, there is a little bit of a possible conflict of interest here, it seems, in that Google is selling the advertising and then telling the advertisers what the audience is going to be.

Shields: Right. You know, they're kind of saying, "We think these are the best sites to spend your dollars with and by the way, we want to receive as many of your dollars as possible." I doubt that Google is going to recommend that you spend all your money with Google all the time; that would be a little bit too transparent or obvious, but Google's got a lot of partners across the Internet; are they going to favor those partners? Hopefully, they're going to be 100 percent objective, but it does raise questions.

Moon: They're already doing business with Google, though. It's just a question, I guess, of how far they're going to climb into bed with them.

Shields: Yeah, I mean, I don't think anybody's going to walk away from spending dollars with Google. Nobody can afford to take any kind of stance against them here. These agencies want to have Google know all kinds of things about the different aspects of their ad campaigns other than the dollars they spent with Google directly.

Moon: And what kind of things could they know?

Shields: Well, I suppose they could know who their target is, what other elements of their media campaigns are out there, what other sites they're spending dollars with. They might just know a little bit more about their plans than most clients would like.

Moon: But Google's famous slogan is "Don't be evil," right?

Shields: Right, right, and this has promised to make life better for people, not to have any kind of evil intent.

Moon: We shall see. Mike Shields is Senior Editor at Media Week. Thanks for joining us.

Shields: Thank you.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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