Google announced plans to shutter its Google TV Ads product yesterday. While not shocking, the announcement is certainly disappointing.
Google TV Ads had its flaws (a minor one being the potential for confusion with Google’s similarly-named consumer set-top box technology, GoogleTV — which isn’t going anywhere), but represented an innovative leap for television media buying by adding the self-service model so successful for search.
A separate section within AdWords (a smart idea expanded recently with AdWords for Video, the YouTube buying section), Google TV Ads allowed advertisers to upload their commercial(s) and bid on ad inventory by targeting specific programs or network day parts. For marketers used to AdWords, the learning curve was short. The tool for finding new programs to add or block was fast and easy to use, and bidding and budgeting were fairly intuitive. Google even included projection models to help with media planning and a website to help advertisers find production partners. The potential audience, while representing only about half of cable viewers, was still huge. The reporting wasn’t as fast as we’re used to with search ads, but it was fast for TV, and very robust.
In retrospect, however, it’s not hard to see why Google TV Ads struggled to win advertisers. For a lot of businesses, the fact that all campaigns were national made Google TV Ads a non-starter. For other advertisers new to TV advertising (the ideal audience for Google TV Ads), producing a television commercial was too high a hurdle. For SEMs, the lack of conversion data compared to online campaigns made bidding difficult. And the self-service bidding model, with no guaranteed inventory, would not be an easy transition for traditional television media buyers.
Despite the huge opportunity in online video ads—on which Google says it will now focus even more—this decision represents a retreat of ambition by Google. Television is still the number one recipient of advertising dollars. With Google TV Ads, Google created an entry point for smaller companies into television and also hinted at a possible future of addressable TV, where ads could be bought to target specific geographic and demographic audiences. Until yesterday, it was possible to see this as only a few (large) engineering challenges away.
In the end I suspect it was a combination of sales challenges and competition for engineering resources at Google that did Google TV Ads in. The holy grail of addressable TV is still out there, but a new knight will have to take up the search for it.