Google's ad strategy dissected

Google ad head gives overview of ad programs.

Google invited a few journalists to the Googleplex on Tuesday to meet with Susan Wojcicki, vice president of product management for the company's advertising programs. She didn't make any big announcements (much to the chagrin of fellow attendees), but she talked about the industry and reminded us that online advertising isn't going away anytime soon.

"The (core ad) business we have is a huge business, and it is still growing at a healthy rate," she said in response to a question about concerns that Google is a one-trick pony. "We expect to continue to see growth."

One tidbit of new information--Google has been testing for the past few weeks a method of providing targeted ads based on multiple searches in one session in what could be seen as a tame form of behavioral advertising. For instance, someone who searched on "Italy vacation" and "weather" could be served ads related to weather in Italy, Wojcicki said.

She was quick to add that no data is stored or remembered, as opposed to behavioral targeting, which serves ads based on a user's online activity over time and which rivals Yahoo and Microsoft are experimenting with. "We want to be sensitive to users' privacy, and I think we believe that task-based information at the time is the most relevant to what a user is searching on," she said. "If you wanted to buy a car two weeks ago and you bought it, you don't necessarily want to see ads for cars today."

She also talked about how Google is experimenting with in-stream, pre- and post-roll ads in video and looking at different "overlays" to the video and banners around it. Video ads should be shorter than 15 seconds, she opined. "The jury is still out on video advertising."

Wojcicki gave an update to the company's offline ad efforts. All U.S. advertisers can buy Print Ads or Audio Ads, and "a large number of publishers" are involved in the print program, while more than 800 radio stations, most owned by Clear Channel, are partners in the radio program.

Google is working with a limited number of advertisers on TV, and EchoStar is the largest partner, she said.

Currently, Google is modifying its Web-based automated ad system for each medium type, but eventually the goal is to have "one unified platform to help advertisers make media decisions," she said.

Each medium offers its own ability to measure how well an ad is doing. For instance, TV advertisers can see exactly when viewers changed the channel and either started or stopped watching an ad, Wojcicki said.

"The ad industry is in the process of a lot of change," she said. "There are more dollars coming online. There is more accountability, more measurement, more alternatives in terms of what those creative formats are...and Google has an opportunity to play a key role in that market."

And how!