Google's Offline Ad Efforts a Long-Term Play

At UBS Media Conference: VP-Advertising Tim Armstrong

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If advertisers are driving much of the monetization of the digital world, Google wants to be their dashboard -- a place to monitor, measure and optimize advertising across multiple media. Eventually it is presumed this will include offline media as well as search and display. While its offline media forays may have seemed ploddingly slow, the search giant isn't giving up on them. Its advertising chief talked about the company's wish to create one interface for advertising across many different media at this week's UBS Global Media and Communications Conference.
Tim Armstrong
Tim Armstrong Credit: Scott Gries

"The media business is siloed by media type," said Tim Armstrong, exec VP-advertising at Google. "But the underlying advertisers aren't siloed."

The more media that are integrated into a dashboard, the more clarity it can bring to advertisers that want to make sure they're serving the right ad to the right person at the right time. It enables advertisers to use measurement and accountability to mix multiple media, he said, while also allowing them to manage the marketing of a wider scale of products. He brought up Google's oft-cited example of a tech marketer that typically advertised fewer than a dozen products a year in an old-media world but now can advertise thousands of its products, thanks to technology such as search.

Still in testing mode
But getting traction in offline media, Mr. Armstrong said, has been "a real test for us." Many of Google's customers do offline advertising, he said, but the company is still in testing mode when it comes to TV, radio and print advertising. Most people describe Google's lack of traction in those spaces as a problem, but he sees it as part of a long-term process.

"They have promise, and we'll continue to test and put resources against them," he said, calling it a two- to five-year plan. "Search took us two and a half years to get AdWords up and running. These might take us a bit longer because they're bigger businesses with a lot of history."

The boon for the offline businesses that partner with Google: its commitment to measurement and bringing a long tail of products into traditional media businesses. In TV, for example, Google delivers second-by-second ratings based on set-top-box data through its agreement with Echostar's Dish Network. It also has used retail sales data to help a client test print and radio creative in various markets.

Showing value
Mr. Armstrong talked of trying to sell a Saturday-morning hunting and fishing TV show in his former life with a major media company but having a hard time finding interested advertisers. "There probably wasn't enough data in that time period to show advertisers why that was of value. ... We want to give data to show advertisers the value of different types of advertising," he said.

Of course, that's sure to scare some agencies, and Mr. Armstrong lightly criticized those "trying to push the friend or foe mentality" when it comes to Google. If you were to come into Google today, you'd see "the largest friendship network happening between Google and agencies," he said, citing the company's relationship with Publicis' Digitas as "a very symbiotic relationship."

Finally, Mr. Armstrong -- barely -- addressed the DoubleClick acquisition, which is still under Federal Trade Commission scrutiny. Google felt the need to not just partner with a third-party ad-serving company but instead buy one to understand the space before it jumped in. Google is a consumer-facing company that can't afford to put its brand at risk should there be some sort of privacy issue related to ad serving. "Partnering doesn't offer the same level of protection," he said.
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