Google CEO: Display Ad Market Could Become $200 Billion Biz

The online display market could quickly become a $200 billion ad business—if it gets its act together.

That’s according to outgoing Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who delivered the opening keynote at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual meeting in La Quinta, Calif.

Schmidt said that the industry could reach that zenith in less than 10 years. “It’s happening faster than all of our predictions,” he said.  

Wearing a gray V-necked sweater and no tie, the relaxed looking CEO—who is relinquishing his role in April—said that the display ad business has emerged stronger than ever following the recession. Yet that’s not to say it doesn’t have problems.

“It’s still too complicated to get a campaign up,” said Schmidt. “It’s just too hard. It’s really a problem.”

Schmidt’s remedy, predictably, was to better automate the multiple laborious processes involved in executing digital media campaigns as well as simplifying measurement. Though short on specifics, Schmidt shed some light on his philosophy—and Google’s—regarding brand advertising.

When asked by an audience member how digital ads can improve, he opined that ads should demonstrate what a product does better or differently than other products, focusing on its attributes, not imagery or emotions—the strengths of TV advertising, which still garners the lion’s share of brand advertising.

That point was driven home with some urgency just prior to Schmidt’s speech by incoming IAB chairman Bob Carrigan, the CEO of IDG Communications.

While Carrigan also noted that the online display business is growing at a healthy clip, his take was less rosy than Schmidt’s, as he cited an “urgent need” for the industry to go after brand dollars more aggressively.

While brand advertising represents about a third of the $26 billion online ad industry in the U.S., “The problem is there are still billions of dollars left on the table,” Carrigan said.

How many? Carrigan estimated that if the Web had the same proportion of brand dollars as TV currently does, the industry could pull in another $6 billion this year alone.

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