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Google is testing targeted television advertising with a small cable operator in Concord, Calif., as the testbed, according to a WSJ report (sub. req.). The WSJ says Google has been serving some ads it has sold through Astound Broadband since last year; Google execs have made no secret of the company’s interest in replicating its search advertising success on television and radio. Targeted advertising is nothing new in cable, which has long pitched as one its selling points the ability to geotarget commercials to clusters as small as zip codes or even blocks in extreme cases. Cable also can target more narrowly by niche than broadcast can most of the time. But most of that is one-way. Google wants to match demographics with content — and possibly get people to go along with personalizing their TV ads by sharing information.
Astound, a division of WaveDivision Holdings, confirmed the test to the WSJ; Astound has about 25,000 subscribers. A Google spokesman told the Journal: “As we have stated publicly, we think we can add value to TV advertising by making this important medium more relevant for users, measurable and more accountable for existing and new advertisers. … As part of this, we are currently running a small, early phase trial working closely with a small number of partners and advertisers.”
The Journal picks up a comment Comcast COO Steve Burke made recently in an earnings call: “We all believe as advertising moves from one-way to two-way, the winners are the Googles of the world and others that can provide truly two-way addressable advertising.”
TWC CEO Glenn Britt admitted that early talks with Google didn’t advance because what Google offered didn’t add much: “We have the technological capabilities to do those things. We don’t really need them.
As is the case with the eBay online ad auction we’ve been writing about and a host of other initiatives, the holy grail here is efficiency in sales, in reach and, if possible, in both. If you serve something that a viewer has said matches needs or interests instead of tossing an ad in that direction based on geography and the program being viewed, you stand a better chance of actually reaching that target.
Britt is right. As the veteran of countless demonstrations of what cable can do, Google doesn’t add much unless it finds a way to match data use with TV viewing. But even with a long, running head start and access to much of the same information, cable itself is still in trials on interactive targeting. Neither is getting anywhere significant anytime soon.
— The Journal also mentions Google-Comcast discussions over the search engine continuing with Comcast.net past 2007. Just imagine the possibilities these two companies could cook up.