Google To Start Doing Its Mega-Personalized Ad-Serving Thing On TV, Too

As dominant as it is and has been for decades, TV advertising is something of a crapshoot. Neilsen ratings are still the gold standard for every network out there, especially since they now finally track time-shifted viewing. But Neilsen still uses their own proprietary tech, and works on a sampling basis. In an age when every set-top box and most of the TVs they’re plugged into are themselves net-connected computers, there’s a more granular and accurate way to measure viewers and to advertise to them — and Google’s taking it.

Most of us think of Google as our e-mail and calendar, a place to search from, or maybe the maker of our phones and browsers. Realistically, however, Google is mostly an advertising company. A huge percentage of their revenues come from their advertisement products, which, until now, have all been in the web and mobile spaces.

But Google Fiber isn’t just a broadband connection; it’s also a pay-TV service. So it’s going to do TV ads the Google way: personally-targeted and in real time.

The company made a quiet little mention of this potentially huge announcement in a support forum post over the weekend.

TV advertising happens at two levels. One is national: the network — whether broadcast or cable — reserves a certain amount of time in each programming block for their ad sales teams to sell space in. Whether you’re in California or Connecticut, you see the same commercials during those breaks.

But the other half of ad sales is at the affiliate level. That’s where your local network affiliate or the pay-TV provider you subscribe to gets to drop in local ads, usually for narrowly geographically-targeted businesses like car dealerships.

What Google is changing in its Kansass City market is the way it handles that local ad time. “Fiber TV ads will be digitally delivered in real time and can be matched based on geography, the type of program being shown (eg, sports or news), or viewing history,” Google explains.

That means that instead of having a set of tapes or files on hand marked for the 12:37 – 12:38 ad break on a certain channel, for example, Google will instead beam different, targeted ads to each viewer watching at that time.

As with web advertising, companies can buy access in a certain number of impressions. So once a local business’s ad has run, say, 15,000 times, it will drop out of rotation. The ads will also work on time-shifted viewing: if you DVR a program on Sunday, when you go to watch it the next Thursday you might get an ad relevant to an event or sale starting on Thursday or Friday, as opposed to seeing an old ad tied to your old program.

As also with web advertising, there are privacy concerns. Anyone who has seen the shoes, house, or laptop they were ogling online yesterday show up all over every site today knows how eerie it can be to have your traffic tracked in that way. Google does say viewers can opt-out of seeing ads based on their viewing history, from their Fiber TV settings, but the data about viewing history is almost certainly still collected somewhere.

Advertisers are likely to benefit from Google’s pilot program, but it’s not something Google can just roll out everywhere right now. For it to work, consumers have to be getting their programming through a Google Fiber box. And those are not exactly widespread, expansion plans or not.

[via The Verge]