Four years ago, Google got into the TV advertising business when it began selling inventory on cable networks to its stable of advertisers in roughly the same way YouTube sells ads against its video programming online.
Now, Google seems to be expanding that program. On the heels of similar partnerships with DirecTV last May and Verizon FiOS in July, Google TV announced a new arrangement this morning with Cox Media, the advertising arm of Cox Communications, the third largest cable operator in the country with 6.2 million subscribers. Google will give its advertising partners—companies like Lenovo, Bloomberg and Coldwell Banker—the opportunity to run television spots on Cox's 75 networks. With the Cox deal and its other similar cable partnerships, Google advertisers will have access to 42 million total households.
A big selling point for its various ad sales businesses online is that Google looks to bring a high degree of measurability to the field—particularly when it comes to the effectiveness of the ads it serves. So, for example, with a program known as AdSense, advertisers on Google don't have to pay for a spot unless the ad is actually consumed by a viewer. Sources at Google say that when it comes to TV, the pitch is no different and that the set-top cable boxes are similarly equipped with technology that allows Google to see when a TV advertisement has actually been viewed; only then will clients have to pay for the spot. It's a promise that might appeal to companies looking for both the reach of TV and the measurability of the Internet.
But Google might have a tough road ahead. In 2009, the company gave up on similar plans to sell radio and newspaper ads. And then there's the competition – Google isn't the only company looking to deliver much more targeted advertising than the current industry standard provides.
Still for a company like Cox, at least, there seems to be a clear upside to the arrangement: It basically allows the cable operators to farm out a chunk of its ad sales efforts to Google. As a Google spokesperson told Adweek: "Our technology and our large pool of advertisers help operators sell their ad space and maximize their ad revenues, like an ad network." A spokesperson at Cox was not immediately available for comment.