Google may be online advertising's 800 pound gorilla, but using its digital dominance to push into traditional advertising markets has proven to be a real challenge.
In 2006, for instance, Google began trials of a platform designed to help advertisers more efficiently purchase ad inventory in newspapers.
In 2009, the search giant killed the offering. Ditto for a similar platform created to move radio ad inventory.
So perhaps it won't come as a surprise that Google has decided to throw in the towel on Google TV Ads, an extension to AdWords that made it possible for advertisers to "bring digital buying and measurement technologies to traditional TV advertising."
In a post on the Google TV Ads blog, Google's Shishir Mehrotra's explained:
Video is increasingly going digital and users are now watching across numerous devices. So we’ve made the hard decision to close our TV Ads product over the next few months and move the team to other areas at Google. We’ll be doubling down on video solutions for our clients (like YouTube, AdWords for Video, and ad serving tools for web video publishers). We also see opportunities to help users access web content on their TV screens, through products like Google TV.
While there's no doubt that digital video is an increasingly lucrative market, AdAge's Michael Learmonth provided some much-needed context:
It was hard for Google to find enough inventory to make an automated system viable. TV is ridiculed in digital circles for its inefficiency, but it's an inefficient market that works pretty well for TV advertisers and the biggest networks. Google struck its biggest deal for content early on, with an agreement to sell some cable inventory from NBC Universal networks like Oxygen and MSNBC in 2008, but that was discontinued in 2010. Google also struck deals with DirecTV and Verizon FiOS, but it was unclear how much inventory was involved.
In other words, as much as Google wanted to bring its flavor of innovation to traditional ads, the key players in the $70bn per year television ad market didn't really have an incentive to play along. And for all of Google's clout in the digital ad space, Google apparently didn't have enough offline sway to force them to.
There's good news for Google, however: growing its share of the ad spending pie may not require it to crack into traditional ad markets. WPP, which spends some $70bn a year on behalf of its clients, counts Google as its "strongest" digital partner according to WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell.
According to Sorrell, thanks to Google's strength across digital channels such as search, video and social, "Google as a media owner will rival our relationships with the biggest traditional media corporations around the world."