YouTube's Latest Stunt: Live Video Ads

Google Is Out to Prove It Can Do More With Display

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Google is a big player in display advertising. Just ask them! Or take a look at the flashy campaign that's been running on news sites including ours this fall. (Display ads are big. They're gonna be huge.)

But aside from the fact that display advertising is now a $2.5 billion annual business for Google (including mobile), its wants to show that it can make those boring boxes do a lot more than your standard display ad.

Just Dance 2 banner ad

Just Dance 2's live streaming video banner ad on YouTube.

If you happened to stop by YouTube today, you saw a little of what they're talking about. In this case, live video in a banner ad as part of a promotion for Ubisoft's "Just Dance 2," a dance-off in Times Square, hosted by Audrina Patridge ("The Hills") and Jai Rodriquez ("Queer Eye").

YouTube is Google's biggest -- and really only -- big display property and hence a test bed for the things it'd like to do in display advertising. The Ubisoft takeover is a cute parlor trick, but one has to wonder who will appreciate the fact that the video was actually live and not a recording.

Live video is certainly cool and a neat technical feat. The world has been waiting for YouTube to flick on live streaming for users, instead of using it for isolated events; last month, YouTube did a live streaming trial with Next New Networks, Howcast, Rocketboom and others.

But aside from showing that it has the technical might and resources to do it, the question is, well, why? Live video is essential for sports and video conferencing, but not very useful for most video. The beauty of YouTube is you can watch the clips you want when you want, which is almost never live. And if recorded video is tough to screen and monetize, live video is that much harder.

Incidentally, it isn't YouTube doing the live streaming into the ad unit today; Ubisoft contracted with an outside provider.

Still, give Google credit for using technology to spur some new thinking about banners. YouTube isn't the first to put live video in an ad; Google did it last month by streaming a MIXX Conference presentation from display chief Neal Mohan and managing director for media Barry Salzman into a banner ad on and elsewhere. It was super-handy for those of us tied down to our desks that day.

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