Googlers: Old media's not dead, it just has to be Google-ized

At a New York panel discussion, five members of Google's powerful ad sales team had one message for Madison Avenue: we're the future.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
4 min read

NEW YORK--Just how much will Mountain View invade Madison Avenue?

Several hundred New Yorkers involved in advertising and marketing packed a room in Google's Chelsea offices here Monday night to find out. A panel of Google advertising employees, moderated by sponsor Mimeo Vice President Jeff Grill individually addressed the crowd at the January installment of the New York Advertising Club's bimonthly meetup to talk about what they do and how they do it: New York ad sales director Tim Castelli; East Coast team manager for audio sales, Joe Anastasi; head of television sales Long Ellis; print ads account executive Tiffany Shen Miller; and consumer packaged goods team manager Sarah Carberry.

The general message was that Google's making big moves to bring its advertising strategy that's proven so successful on the Web--up-to-the-minute, uber-targeted advertisments that give advertisers access to detailed analytics, and the ability to cater to both major brands and tiny businesses--to more traditional platforms like print, television, and radio, and that ad agencies should pay attention. The audience likely left the offices either fired up or terrified.

Somewhat ironically, despite the large number of ad industry professionals in attendance, Google's proposed acquisition of online ad firm DoubleClick never came up.

New York ad sales director Castelli told the audience that Google's prime advantage is that it can connect a marketer to a consumer "at that moment of relevance." Not only is targeting niche audiences more necessary than ever, but so is streamlining a process that (according to Google) has been largely unchanged in traditional media for decades.

With television ads, for example, Ellis explained that Google aims to "take the benefits of online and move them to the television world...(which) means measurement and accountability and optimization." Google already has a partnership with EchoStar to sell advertisements on the Dish satellite network, and will soon be launching a partnership with metrics giant Nielsen to gather more specific demographic details. In about three weeks, Ellis said, Google television ads will allow for program targeting.

Likewise, in radio, Google also believes it can revitalize an industry that some critics have declared moribund in the face of new media. "Google is just re-engineering the offline space," audio sales manager Anastasi said. "After your ads start running, you can go online and you can see when your spots are running," he explained as he talked about how Google could revolutionize the efficiency levels of the radio ad market. "You can get that air check literally seconds after it runs. You can change that copy in less than 24 hours."

On the print ads side, it's more about restructuring a musty business. Google hopes to drive targeting and efficiency by providing "a single Web interface where you can go and research available inventory across multiple publications, and make that buy online, and track and plan and do everything within our system," Shen Miller said.

Web video advertising, which Carberry discussed, was the only truly "online" market niche that was talked about Monday evening. Carberry spoke less about how Google would revolutionize the industry--after all, Web video ads are quite new to begin with--and more about how its YouTube property would be ideal territory for advertisers looking to reach a truly media-savvy audience. "(Being) able to dive into that community where people are so responsive to seeing their video messages," she said, will be a gold mine.

What's next? First off, there's mobile advertising, something that none of the Googlers present really talked much about. Mostly it's because the Android mobile operating system is still hush-hush. But it's also because the industry's not yet mature overall, Derek Kuhl said, and a lot of things have to be decided. "None of us know" what the monetization models could be, he admitted.

Then there's social media. An audience member asked Castelli what he thought the "next big thing" in advertising would be, and the Google sales director responded that he thought it would be the likes of Facebook and MySpace, which have heretofore struggled with monetization. The most high-profile entry in the field, Facebook's Social Ads, has been considered as controversial as it is innovative. "The social community aspect of the Web is something that's not going anywhere," Castelli said, and suggested that Google may delve into social advertising somewhere down the road.

Google does have access to a whole lot of eyes and ears with the impending OpenSocial program, after all.

But overall, despite its successes, Google was still largely pitching to the agency professionals in the audience and helping to sharpen its image among the Madison Avenue crowd--not scare them off. "The future (for Google advertising) is bright only because it's a partnership with ad agencies, and it's a platform to make them smarter," Ellis said.

"Every meeting I'm in with an agency, I learn more than I could ever give," Kuhl said. "The planners and the agencies are just fascinating people. I learn from them every time."