Media agencies should be wary of Google’s TV agenda

Google chairman Eric Schmidt talking in Cannes

Have you read Tess Alps’ open letter to Google’s Eric Schmidt today in which the chief executive calls for better collaboration and support from the internet giant?

Highlighting tensions with Google’s approach to-date, the Thinkbox leader pointedly notes that “great TV is created by teams, not by brilliant, solitary geeks”, and accuses Google of failing to collaborate properly on past ventures that have had an impact on the industry.As you’d expect, the context and analysis offered by Alps is a thought-provoking considered one, and no doubt timely too. The arrival of Schmidt on stage at the Edinburgh International Television Festival this week is being touted as the first time a non broadcaster has presented its MacTaggart address.

Except of course, Google has been broadcasting in various guises for some time, not least through YouTube. But with convergence of technology finally, truly bringing the web and television together, coupled with the continuing rise of the second screen in living rooms, the symbiotic relationship between Google and TV has never been so strong.

The stage is set for media’s greatest frenemy to finally come to the party with platitudes at the ready and promises of ‘more constructive partnerships’ moving forward; no doubt Schmidt will be widely welcomed in some quarters too.

However, perhaps not everyone should be so enamored with this concerted effort to court TV land. When it comes to advertising, Google could also be moving in a direction that directly challenges the planning and buying process that forms the bedrock of media agencies today.

At a closed briefing I attended with Schmidt earlier this summer, the Google chairman was openly frustrated by the current lack of accountability when it came to traditional media in general, and television in particular.

It’s not hard to see why: in the digital space in which his company’s led for the past decade, his analytics team prides itself on being able to pinpoint those ads that have worked and those that have not, and to evaluate return on investment accordingly.

He believes digital campaigns can now be planned, refined and evaluated with total precision, and, increasingly, with much of the process being automated.

“We can absolutely tell you ‘put this percentage of money in Google, this percentage in Yahoo, this percentage of money in Facebook’,” he said. “What we cannot do yet is provably use that tool for television.”

Engineer Schmidt made his future intentions clear: “I talk to the CMO or the CEO and I say ‘what is your problem?’ “They say ‘the client is giving me X million dollars, they want us to plan across television, radio, the internet… [things that are currently] measurable and immeasurable things.”

“What they want [and we call internally at Google] is the ‘CMO Dashboard’. It’s the equivalent of a spread sheet which says, for each incremental dollar, put it here. So if you can answer that question, I think it answers every other question in this space.”

Schmidt called the idea of being able to plan a campaign’s media mix armed with reliable and comparable data “the Holy Grail” of advertising, and added: “The company that can offer the best integrated solution along those lines will get the majority of the customers.”

Interesting comment, and one that in a breath instantly pits Google not only against its stalwart digital rivals such as Microsoft and Yahoo, but also against the research and insights teams that underpin all the major holding companies like WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Havas and Aegis – not to mention the practitioners operating within them.

Expect Schmidt to be on a full-on charm offensive come Friday.