Having built an online empire around keeping the advertising simple and unobtrusive, Google is about to enter the video advert business. The announcement follows the AOL acquisition of video search engine Truveo in January and video ad sales specialist Lightningcast last week, which will merge with Advertising.com which AOL bought for $435 million two years ago. However, while the AOL strategy appears to be a straightforward matter of selling commercials into online video programming, Google is taking a much more ‘in your face’ approach. If the information that is coming back to me through usually reliable sources is accurate, Google is going to simply insert video adverts directly onto the web page. Oh tell me it isn’t so.
OK, it’s not quite as bad as it would first sound, because those same sources tell me that only a single still frame will be presented to the user who will then have to make the decision to click a play buttons to see the actual video footage. However, it’s bad enough in my never humble opinion because it’s evidence of yet another move away from the basic principle of unobtrusive advertising that has stood Google in such good stead up until now. And further evidence that the new Google, the billion dollar megacorp Google, the ‘we’ve got shareholders to worry about now’ Google is losing the plot. At a pinch I could possibly learn to live with AdSense Video Edition on web pages, after all I could ignore them just the same as I ignore most web advertising (shock, horror – Joe User tells it like it is warning). But how long before we see video ads appearing within search results, something a lot harder to ignore? My sources tell me that this isn’t on the cards for now, but reports floating around the web are quoting Google as saying it is certainly considering doing so in the future.
Of course, the big question should really be whether this will actually work or not? How many times would you be tempted to actually click to play a video advert, consciously make the decision to waster a couple of minutes of your time like this? I am guessing the question is meeting with a wall of silence, which leads me to ask how many advertisers are going to pay premium prices for such ad placement if it just doesn’t work? Using the same auction based system as currently operates; advertisers would be expected to bid for views. Google appears to be betting that television advertising models can transfer to the web in the same that television style broadcasting models can. I’m not convinced that the auction model is the way that this market wants to buy advertising. It requires a sea change in the business of video advertising, and that’s a huge outsider to succeed. Google is probably also betting that most of us won’t notice that this is yet one more nail in the coffin of the old business, the search focussed Google, the Google that gave a damn.
The truth is that Google is now nothing more, nothing less, than a multi-national advertising agency. And that’s a crying shame…