Friday, July 25, 2008
One of the major reasons for Google's financial success has been its ability to target online advertisements at people who may be most interested in the products that those ads offer. It does this by gathering information about the users of its search engine based on what they search for and then uses special software to display advertisements that are relevant to their searches on the search results page.
Now Google is making a foray into the realm of TV advertisements. The idea is basically the same as with the online advertisement services, but will be used to target TV commercials at the specific audiences that will be the most receptive to those particular TV commercials. Of course, while similar in theory, this would be different to implement than the online commercials.
Basically, when people surf the Internet they send out what's known as an IP address with every request for information- whether it's a web page, a digital photo, or a sound clip- and that IP address tells the server that has the requested information where to send it. The other thing about an IP address is that Google can remember individual IP addresses and built databases of what the user of each IP address has searched for. Then, once the database has been built up, when Google gets a search request from a specific IP address, it automatically delivers advertisements along with the search results that are based on all of the information in the database combined with the specific search. This results in the user of the IP address receiving advertisements that are very pertinent to what they're looking for and who they are. At least in theory. In practice the whole process can be thrown off by multiple people, with very different preferences, using the same IP address. This would make for a profile associated with that IP address that's very different from any individual user.
While cable TV doesn't currently employ an IP address or an equivalent identifier, there are similar ways to target TV ads at specific audiences with more accuracy than previously possible, and that's what Google is trying to implement. Even if the technology that Google employs for targeting advertisements to its online users won't carry over directly to cable TV, its overall strategy and philosophy will. Basically, Google is working on implementing an automated approach to targeting TV commercials to the audiences that will be most receptive to them based on demographic information. For example, Google's system would deliver ads for arthritis drugs and orthopedic products to the cable TV feeds going into a retirement community rather than wasting advertising space delivered to that population on ads for minivans and off road vehicles. Conversely, if a certain apartment building is mostly inhabited by single people without children, the Google system would make sure that advertising space to that population isn't wasted on the promotion of children's toys.
This system promises to be another step in Google's overarching goal of becoming a one stop place for advertisers to connect their messages with the consumers that will be most receptive to their products, and will be a new step in TV technology.