Google’s New Media Advertising: Get Hip or Get Left Behind

Like many agencies and advertisers, we’ve been dragging our feet before trying Google’s relatively new advertising options. My rationale has been that search (or PPC) advertising is inherently better than the traditional advertising media: print, radio and TV.

PPC advertising has been trouncing traditional media due largely to the fact that efficiency and accountability are “built in.” The auction model (almost) guarantees that ad spending will be no higher than necessary to remain competitive. But it’s the built-in accountability – the ability to monitor and adjust for optimal ROI or ROAS – that makes PPC advertising the ad medium of choice for profit-hungry advertisers.

Recently I took a closer look at Google’s print, radio and TV advertising capabilities – and son of a gun – they’ve got auction and ROI-tracking built in, too! Here’s what I found:

Let’s start with the easiest one: print. Google’s Print Ads system lets you place diaply ads in thousands of newspapers nationwide. It isn’t, strictly speaking, auction-based. Here’s what Google says:

“Print Ads advertisers extend bids to newspapers, essentially naming a price for the insertions they want. The publisher then has the opportunity to accept or decline that price. Unlike an auction system, a publisher is able to accept multiple bids as desired.”

So while it’s not an auction, advertisers can set a maximum price they’re willing to pay. In the nicely-designed AdWords interface for managing Print campaigns, advertisers see the newspaper’s “listed rate,” and can choose to bid below that rate.

Reporting is primitive, but accountability is as easy as tracking print ad performance has always been: advertisers can include a custom url in each ad, or a custom toll-free number, for example.

Good documentation of the Google Print Ads system is available at

Let’s move on to a trickier realm: Radio advertising (well-documented here: Google calls this Audio Ads, taking into consideration that ads will eventually be delivered via a variety of channels in addition to Radio – in podcasts, for example.

With Audio Ads, advertisers have the option to either reserve or bid on available radio air time. Bidding is risky, since audio ads will only be run if/when there are available open time slots, but this allows advertisers to buy bargain air time and control their costs.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Accountability is not only built into Audio Ads – it’s even better and more valuable than Google’s search and content advertising.

First, there’s an option for free call tracking. That’s right: the service that others offer at high prices is free and built into Audio Ads. Here’s Google’s description:

“With call reporting, we’ll assign you a tracking phone number and redirect all calls it receives to the phone number of your choosing (we recommend your main business line). Call reporting lets you track the total number, the cities of origin, and the date and time, of calls that are made to your assigned call reporting number.”

Once you’ve set up call reporting in your AdWords account, create an audio ad that references your assigned number. When a user phones the call reporting number mentioned in your audio ad, Google passes the call on to your regular business number and records the basic details of the call. Then, you can sign in to your account to view a full report of all the calls.”

This, my friends, is huge. It lets advertisers assess their ads’ ROI right down to the city, date and time. <Google: will you be offering this to AdWords Search and Content advertisers soon?>

Even better – Google supplies a big set of reports that can be run within the AdWords interface. I won’t get into the details, but you can get a good idea from this screen shot of the report types available under the new Audio Ad Reports tab:

Let’s move on to even more interesting (and potentially more powerful) territory: TV advertising. Google announced their TV ad beta testing in April, and has recently posted details at

Details are still a bit sketchy, but it’s clear that the TV advertising system will feature an auction format (bidding based on CPM – cost-per-impression), and… wait for it… performance metrics:

“Once your ad has aired, use Google’s reporting metrics to immediately understand the effectiveness of your ads. Google is now plugged into millions of set top boxes and we are measuring second-by-second viewership data across all dayparts. This valuable data will enable you to find out which ads are engaging your viewers.”

Here’s a screen capture from Google’s online demo:

These early forays into traditional advertising media have huge implications:

  1. Google is determined to shift all advertising to an AdWords system that introduces auction and accountability to an industry that has never known such pinpoint efficiency and accuracy.
  2. Traditional ad agencies will succeed or fail depending on whether they can intelligently employ these new capabilities – which requires them to understand and embrace auction systems, analytics and accountability.
  3. “New media” agencies that bill themselves as “Full service” will need to broaden their skill sets to include radio, TV and print – or decide to stick to their search/content niches.

So ad industry brethren: you’ve received your heads-up. Get hip or get left behind.