The idea that Google would offer targeted ads on your TV to replace basic TV advertising seems, on the surface, kind of silly. An ad is an ad, right? Why do we need Google Ads? How could they even replace my ads anyway?
Turns out, if you watch cable TV, you’re already seeing replaced ads. Cablevision, Time Warner, et al, at least in NYC, regularly replace the commercials that came packaged with your favorite channel (say, Comedy Central) with their own more local, more targeted spots. You can spot these because the timing isn’t always perfect. Sometimes you see a split-second of another commercial at the beginning or end of the commercial you’re trying to ignore. Those aren’t blipverts from Max Headroom. They’re just poor timing by the systems that replace one commercial with another. Broadcast networks also offer a mix of local and national ads, but you rarely see timing errors because it’s more synergistic.
Assuming cable companies have to compensate the source channel for each ad they replace, the replacements must earn more money than the original embedded ads–otherwise it doesn’t make economic sense. If Google can serve better ads that produce more results for the advertiser’s client, then the ad is certainly worth more and there’s money to be made. Consumers are generally no worse off than they are now, Google says, and if they get advertising information they want, they’re better off in the end. [aside: this is true only if the advertised claims turn out to be true.]
It isn’t too far fetched to imagine an intelligent set-top box that could replace commercials with individually targeted ones, picked based on your profile and pulled off the net depending on the current context. That isn’t necessarily what Schmidt is talking about here. But it’s pretty clear that Google wants to be the advertising companion to every aspect of your digital life. How they pull it off is another question.
For now, they seem more focused on using your computer as a companion to your TV watching, just as your PDA is the companion to your daily treks. If the computer monitors your TV, it can display ads while you’re watching, even while you’re watching other ads. [What fun that’ll be.]
I’m not quite sure what the added value is to the consumer, why we wouldn’t, for example, just turn the computer off or kill the software. But that’s what Google has to figure out. The technical challenges in offering ads, even dynamically chosen ads on your TV set aren’t the hard part. The hard part is coming up with a real-world scenario (‘added value’) for me to tolerate more ads. They solved it with search, so they seem confident they can do it here.
Well, since we’re turning TV into a form of augmented reality, here’s a suggestion: CNN and other news organizations can start geo-referencing their broadcasts using the closed captioning system. Google should provide a way to link this to Google Earth at the consumer end of the pipe. Coarse coordinates are fine for now, but ideally, they’ll put GPS and orientation sensors on the individual cameras in the field so we can sync our Google Earth view to their live news feed and see the video right on the planet [feature request]
That’s what I’m talking about by ‘added value.’ If Taco Bell wants to highlight their 10 convenient locations near Anderson Cooper while he’s reporting from a flooded, devastated New Orleans, that’s their problem to iron out. If Google can serve ads that serve us, more power to them.