Google’s Armstrong Outlines Five-Year Plan for Offline Ad Sales

Google’s race to sell ads in traditional media is shaping up to be more of a marathon than a sprint, according to sales chief Tim Armstrong.

During comments made to an audience of investors yesterday, Armstrong said scaling up the company’s brokerage in TV, radio and print ad inventory may take up to twice as long as growing its core search and contextual ad products did. That’s because those offline channels are simply larger and more lumbering than the Web.

“This is a two-, three-, five-year product we’re going to work on,” he said at UBS’s Global Media & Communications Conference in New York yesterday. “Search really took us two-and-a-half years to get up and running on a large level. These may take us a little longer, because they’re bigger businesses with more history behind them.”

Commenting on each offline channel in turn, Armstrong claimed Google had done a “very good job getting inventory” in print and “had been doing a better job” doing so in radio. He had more to say about the company’s more recent incursion into television, where its only distribution is through a relationship with EchoStar.

“The set-top box… is a digitally connected device,” he said. “With second-by-second ratings… testing and doing better pieces of creative can lead to efficiencies in terms of how ads perform. That feels very familiar to us at Google.”

He reiterated the sweet spots for Google are niche networks and obscure programming blocks rather than the major nets and primetime slots. “If you’re a major network you’re probably doing OK right now,” he said. “There are smaller networks and deeper programming [where] you see a big variance in CPMs.”

“One thing we hope Google or other companies will do in the TV space is allow advertisers to see the value in different levels of programming,” he added.

In the print and radio arena, Armstrong offered the example of a national manufacturer that had tested different creative executions in different markets, saying the client had successfully measured the impact of those ads at the store level.

Armstrong separately hinted the company might further open its clients’ AdWords campaigns to third-party ad trafficking and measurement tools, thus allowing marketers to better measure their Google campaigns. The ability to integrate with such systems has been an area of concern for many advertising clients and was one of the less-acknowledged motivations for the pending DoubleClick acquisition.

Armstrong said the company would execute “more and more partnerships in that space.”

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