TV Advertising, Search, and the Google Cube

By the time you read this, rumors of the Google Cube will hopefully be validated or dismissed. Larry Page will have presented his vision of the future at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Rumors are it’s a hub that connects computers, appliances, and so forth within your home. Once again, we have the possible convergence of computers and other connected devices. The device is said to be plug and play, and to include handy features like VoIP (define) and Bluetooth (define). No one knows what aspects of video functionality might be included in the mythical cube.

However, appliances don’t have to be connected to the Web to be important for SEM (define). TV and search are inexorably linked and may become more so in the future. I often search on Google, Yahoo, or MSN in real time when a TV show is on or during that rare moment when I’m too lazy to fast-forward my TiVo through a commercial and actually see an ad for something that interests me.

I’m not alone in surfing while TV viewing. For our clients who advertise heavily on TV and other broadcast media, there is often a pronounced, measurable effect on their search campaigns:

  • Search volume on brand names and product names goes up. Consumers see the brand, get curious, and often search for the brand or product name rather than follow the ad’s instructions to visit the URL directly. Some surfers seem to think all navigation should be through search, and clearly Yahoo, Google, and MSN won’t dissuade that practice.

  • Search volume on the issues discussed in the ad goes up, though this effect is harder to measure. When products are advertised to solve a problem (e.g., heartburn, loneliness, job search, commercial-free radio), the search volume on the issues themselves may be even higher than the domain. Essentially, the ad creates interest in the category.
  • CTRs (define) on the advertiser’s existing ads go up. The CTR increase is measurable for both branded keywords and generic, non-branded keywords. This is particularly true if the ad budget is significant and the ad creative is doing its job to create recall and awareness.

The above results don’t always hold true, but more often than not there’s a discernible interaction effect between offline advertising — particularly TV advertising — and search. Radio is often consumed in the car, so the ad effect is less likely to result in a search. Print ad effects are more challenging to pin down due to the lag time between an issue’s distribution and its viewing.

If your SEM team (internal or external) doesn’t have your media plan, it can’t fully take advantage of the interaction effects. Make sure your SEM team knows about advertising and PR activities.

Even Google may recognize traditional media’s power to influence online search behavior. I wouldn’t necessarily call it advertising, but Google is sponsoring PBS’ NOVA. In addition, recent news has given us more interesting fodder for discussion, especially given the activities being reported about Google camp.

Several blogs reported the terms of service on the upload area of Google’s video site have been amended to cover revenue sharing and the potential that Google will rent videos and take a revenue share. This opens up the possibility for content that could be partially or fully subsidized by advertising. Video producers could insert their own ads or product placements, or they could have Google sell or rent the videos for them. The long-rumored Google Wallet would be the perfect way to pay for video rentals.

The use of the image and video search brings us to banner advertising, which till now has existed only in the Google content network. However, the recently announced AOL/Google deal has an element of cooperation around banner ads within Google’s video and image sections. AOL may sell some of that inventory, and one can be fairly sure Google will make that inventory available directly as well, through the site-targeting program.

If you don’t have creative resources available now, this may be the year to establish a stable of creative graphical talent.

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