Google’s new funding program for Academics: $ for studies on “Brand Development,” Click Generation” and “for moving traditional video spots from broadcast to broadband”

The advertising industry is engaged in a growing research effort to push the boundaries of marketing. It wishes, for example, to reach deeply into our unconscious mind in order to generate a range of behavioral responses. Marketers are exploring how the new tools of digital advertising can influence consumer emotions.

For example, Google is now engaged in consumer neuroscience research to make its YouTube ads more effective. But Google wants more academic help so it can improve its digital marketing prowess. So Google and global ad giant WPP have joined forces to create “a new research program to improve understanding and practices in online marketing, and to better understand the relationship between online and offline media.” The program will be run by a trio of scholars, including Google’s own Hal Varian, Professor John Quelch, senior associate dean of Harvard Business School (who is a a non-executive director of WPP), and Professor Glen Urban, former dean of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Varian told DM News that “We want to encourage more research about how online and offline media work together to influence consumer choices. We think that such research will contribute to more effective and more measurable advertising performance.” DM News also reported that Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital and WPP’s director of strategy explained that “[T]he industry, our clients and our companies will benefit from the application of some of the world’s finest academic research minds into how online media influences consumers.”

Don’t expect, by the way, any grants to be awarded that examine the ethical dimensions of interactive marketing; or new threats to personal privacy and autonomy; the implications of Google’s growing global control over online ad revenues on publishing; or the negative environmental and social consequences of promoting a digital marketing system which could lead to over-consumption.

Here are some of the research questions Google hopes will draw academics into its program:

    • How does a brand establish a framework for assessing how much should be spent online? How much advertising should be directed at brand development versus specific click generation?…
    • How do you set digital advertising budgets and tactics when in intensively competitive product categories?…
    • What are good guidelines for moving traditional video spots from broadcast to broadband?
    • What is the causal relationship between brand health and search success? And what is the link between search and sales? How does search contribute to word of mouth recommendation?
    • How can banner ads be more effective?
    • How do you model the consumer response to digital advertising in social networks or mobile media?
    • What do we know and what more do we need to know about on-line audiences?
    • How can advertisers be welcome in social networks?
    • Recipients will be invited to attend a conference in Fall 2009 (Sept/Oct) where they can share their preliminary findings.

Google’s Study on How Singaporeans Research Financial Products & Services

excerpt: “A Google survey of Singaporean financial research and purchasing habits has found that nearly three out of four or 70 per cent the island state’s residents go online to research financial products and services that interest them...With the current economic uncertainty, financial institutions should enhance their online presence and digital marketing efforts to find new customers and strengthen current customer relationships in today’s cost-conscious consumer environment, said Lori Sobel, head of sales for Google Southeast Asia.

“… At a time when most of their potential customers are researching financial products on the Internet, companies cannot risk missing out on the opportunity to convert them into clients.”

source: “More Singaporeans going online to become finance-savvy.” Digital Media. 24 Oct. 2008

Google Boosts its Show-Biz Presence with Awards for Best Hollywood Movie Use of Digital Marketing, including Virtual Worlds, Online Games and Search

The marketing folks over at Google’s DoubleClick division have been trolling the movie studios to offer them marketing help. Google is now running the “Digital Movie Advertising Creative Showcase Awards.” The GoogOscars are awarded in three categories: “Theatrical Release Rich Media Ad(s),” “Home Entertainment Rich Media Ad(s),” and for a “Multi-Channel Digital Campaign.” In order to enter the contest, the campaign must include at least three of the following “interactive digital elements”–

1. Website
2. Rich media ads
3. Search campaign
4. ARG
5. Mobile
6. Viral/video webisodes
7. Virtual world
8. User-Generated Content
9. Social Networking
10. Online Game(s)
11. Digital Outdoor
12. DVD/Blue-Ray Interactive Experience/Extras

Here’s a link to the recent winners.

PS: It appears that Google is going on a digital marketing award spree! Google is also giving a travel industry award for an “integrated marketing campaign that exemplifies the best brand impact and consumer appeal.” Google has joined forces with the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International to deliver the award early next year.


Google Using Brain Research to Hone its Online Ads

Google has joined the stampede of advertisers who have embraced the tools of neuroscience to help them create the emerging generation of interactive ads. In the new model for marketing, the goal is to bypass our conscious, more rational, decision-making. They want to reach deeply into our emotional, unconscious, self. Hence, the gaggle of companies helping marketers with brain research. Google, by the way, is using the same company that recently tested how junk food ads affected consumer brains during the recent Olympic games. Neurofocus, the Berkeley-based company partnering with Google, won a major ad award for its help harnessing neuroscience to sell Frito-Lay chips. The growing role of neuroscience research for advertising (especially digital marketing) must be addressed by policymakers, health professionals, and other responsible parties. Here’s the Mediaweek excerpt:

“Google is so confident that its InVideo Ads product—those semi-transparent/animated overlay ads it launched on YouTube last year—are game changers that the company is turning to brain wave researchers to prove their effectiveness.

The search giant–in conjunction with MediaVest–has partnered with NeuroFocus, a researcher that specializes in biometrics, to gauge both how users respond to InVideo ads and how well those ads complement traditional banner ads. NeuroFocus specializes in measuring individuals’ brain response—by literally placing sensors on their heads—as well as other factors like pupil dilation and skin response.

“We were really interested in looking at what we think of as a pretty innovative ad unit,” explained Leah Spalding, advertising research manager, Google, who emphasized that since InVideo ads are designed to be non-intrusive, they warrant an evaluation that goes beyond traditional measures like click-through rates. “Standard metrics don’t tell the whole story…Specifically, after fielding a study among 40 participants last May, InVideo ads scored above average on a scale of one to 10 for measures like “attention” (8.5), “emotional engagement” (7.3) and “effectiveness” (6.6). According to officials, a 6.6 score is considered strong.

source: “Google, MediaVest Tap Biometrics for InVideo Ads Play.” Mike Shields. Mediaweek. October 23, 2008.

and more on the research via Mediapost: “…the NeuroFocus research conducted in May looked at the reactions of 40 people to YouTube InVideo overlay and companion banner ads from a cross-section of MediaVest advertising clients.

The firm used biometric measures such as brainwave activity, eye-tracking and skin response to gauge the impact of ads. Based on criteria including attention level, emotional engagement and memory retention, it then comes up with an overall “effectiveness” score for ads.”

“Google: This is your brain on advertising.” Mark Walsh. Mediapost. Oct. 23, 2008

PS: Google has been holding research discussions on such topics as “The Neuroscience of Emotions [Sept. 16, 2008]. Here’s the link to a presentation via YouTube.

Here’s another on computational neuroscience by a researcher who works on online advertising.

Google Study on the Online Shopping Habits of Millionaires

Researching Google’s research projects are always illuminating about the priorities of the online ad giant. Here’s an excerpt on its new study, as reported by Advertising Age [sub. required]: The internet is a shopping destination of choice for the rich — and the one most preferred by the very rich, according to a study from Google.

The study…finds…millionaires vastly prefer online shopping to in-store and are much more likely to use the internet than their not-quite-as-wealthy brethren. In all, 95% of the 263 millionaires surveyed made their last luxury purchase online.

Ultra-affluents, as defined by Google, have net worths of $1 million or more and household incomes of at least $250,000 a year for married couples and at least $175,000 for singles. Millionaires are defined as those with an income of more than $1 million…Google said it looked at the 25-to-64 age bracket because that is the group most luxury marketers are interested in reaching…John McAteer, industry director-retail at Google, added that many chief marketers have misconceptions of their customers as “ladies who lunch.” In fact, he said, they are strapped for time and looking to the internet not only to shop but to find product reviews and information.

source: “Time Is Money: Wealthy Drop Dollars Online…
Google Study Finds Millionaires Prefer Efficiency of Web Shopping to Bricks-and-Mortar Stores for Luxury Purchases.” Natalie Zmuda and Abbey Klaassen. Ad Age. Oct. 20, 2008.

Privacy Threats from Google/Yahoo Deal: “True Behavioral Targeting”

Via a interview in B to B magazine [excerpt, my bold]: “It seems that Yahoo is out to get two main things from a deal with Google: a proven alternative to its failing search-monetization effort and access to more data that enable better behavioral targeting, complementing its technological and differentiating assets… A Yahoo-Google joint venture would produce the only entity on the Internet with access to a critical mass to enable true behavioral targeting. That’s a lot of private information in one place and a significant limitation for others to compete in behavioral targeting and personalization of the Web.”

source: “What a Google-Yahoo advertising deal means. Christopher Hosford. B to B. October 22, 2008

Google’s Net Vision: “take the TV experience and provide it on the Web”

As online advertising companies such as Google import the TV ad model into the online experience, what will be the consequences: to content diversity, public interest programming, sustainable lifestyles, etc.? We have our own opinion, and it should be part of a growing debate on the future of the digital media system. Here’s a glimpse of Google’s vision and its new “Branded Entertainment” division, via an article in Fast Company [November 2008]. Our bold.

excerpt: [Seth] MacFarlane’s management team went out and signed him up with Google. The resulting “Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy”…shorts are also distributed in an innovative way: targeting young males where they lurk by popping up in ad windows on sites such as and (while simultaneously appearing on YouTube). “The idea is not to drive someone to a Web site but to make content available wherever the audience will be,” explains Dan Goodman, president of digital at MRC [Media Rights Capital]… MacFarlane’s status as an equity partner in the deal entitles him to split the ad revenue with Google and MRC…MRC provides the funding and sells the ad partnerships, MacFarlane provides the content, and Google serves as distribution outlet, providing the “broadcast” via its AdSense network. Then all three split the proceeds…Each Cavalcade short carries a single advertiser. The first 10 were bought by Burger King…

For Burger King, the appeal was obvious. “Seth’s fan base intersects squarely with our audience of young men and women,” says Brian Gies, vice president of marketing impact for Burger King. In other words, MacFarlane’s comedy provides a very powerful and friendly connection to a very targeted audience, one that tends to get the munchies. Says Google’s Levy: “We know where to find them, and we’re putting the advertising in an environment they’re comfortable in.”

“The idea is to take the TV experience and provide it on the Web,” says Alex Levy, Google’s director of branded entertainment. “But brought to the people you want to reach, when, where, and how you want to reach them.” For a company that likes to say it’s not in the content business, that’s a remarkable statement. Google, in essence, is trying to use its ad-distribution network to turn content distribution upside down.”

Seth MacFarlane’s $2 Billion Family Guy Empire. Josh Dean. Fast Company. Oct. 13, 2008

The New York Times Offers Behavioral Targeting to its Advertisers [file under “failure to really disclose” department]

Excerpt from the New York Times “Audience Targeting” page for advertisers:

“Target your Ideal Audience

As the #1 reaching newspaper site on the Web, has an extensive database of reader-supplied information. Through reader surveys and registration data analysis, we can offer you access to your ideal audience.

Main Types of Targeting on

  • Contextual
  • Behavioral
  • Registration Based/Demographic
  • IP-Based Company Information
  • Geographic…
  • Behavioral Targeting

    This offers you the ability to reach niche audiences based on readers’ demonstrated interest wherever they are on By utilizing this premium-targeting tool, you can exponentially increase the number of opportunities to reach your niche audience. Experience more efficient use of marketing budgets, expanded ad placement opportunities and increased media impact and effectiveness.

    How it works: collects anonymous data on user behavior on the site. We can track broad behaviors – like visits to particular sections – and narrow ones – like reading about a particular topic or demonstrated interest in luxury real estate. With this data, interest segments are built…

    IP-Based Company Information

    Through information gleaned from visit IPs we can target against Industry and Fortune 500 or FTSE ranking. This allows for very narrow targeting of any visitor to the site, whether that user is registered with us or not.”

Facebook ad targeting system is using the “keywords in people’s status messages”–Tales of Behavioral Targeting

Fresh proof that Congress has to prohibit behavioral targeting unless consumers opt-in appears in the new issue of Brandweek. Facebook is “experimenting” with the targeting by “keywords in people’s status messages,” according to “Tim Kendall, director of monetization at Facebook.” Here are some other choice excerpts from the article:

“Advertisers are extremely interested in all new developments in the behavioral targeting space,” said Emily Riley, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass. “We’re seeing a big uptick in the use of [these] tactics.” According to Forrester data, 24% of advertisers used behavioral targeting in 2008. Last year it was only 16%…Almost half of advertisers say, ‘Even if I didn’t use behavioral last year, I definitely want to this coming year…”…

“…said Jeff Berman, president of sales and marketing at MySpace. “… the more data you have, the smarter you can be with your media… but if you want to focus on . . . 25-40-year-old mom Nascar fans who love romantic comedies and live in 12 specific zip codes, we can do that.”

…”as BT becomes more invasive at social networking sites, the technology should improve and thus serve up more relevant ads based on our true site behavior…Revenue Science, one of the biggest independent BT networks, is using forward-to-friend behavior to allow advertisers to target virally oriented people. Bebo, the social networking site AOL bought earlier this year, works with Elkridge, Md.-based Lotame, an agency that helps brand advertisers target unique users, such as new moms, who spend a lot of time on social sites.”

source: Behavioral Targeting: A Tricky Issue for Marketers. Becky Ebenkamp. Brandweek. Oct. 21, 2008

Google, the Global Youth Obesity Crisis & its “Branded Entertainment” Division Deals with Pepsi and Burger King

Google’s top executives and corporate-responsibility concerned investors should consider the consequences of the online ad company’s major promotion of Burger King and Pepsi. Google is broadly distributing two new online programming series backed by either Burger King and Pepsi via its “branded entertainment” division. A new Pepsi-backed show called Poptub, notes, “resides on its own YouTube channel and is distributed through Google AdSense (via “Gadgets” or widgets), increasing the number of eyeballs for potential advertisers. Ad revenue will be split between Google, Pepsi-backed Embassy Row, and the website that hosted the clip.” CNET reports that Poptub features “perky hosts, amusing videos, promotional interviews, and a prominent Pepsi sponsorship.”

Google’s Burger King backed “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy” is a huge online hit, Mediaweek reports. The YouTube based series “generated 14 million total views since their Sept. 9 debut across various syndication partners…One short, Super Mario Rescues The Princess, has amassed over 6 million views on YouTube alone…the Cavalcade channel was YouTube’s most popular during the week ending Sept. 12, generating millions of views in less than 48 hours… The first 10 of the MacFarlane-produced shorts are being sponsored by Burger King. The fast food company’s branded channel,, is now the second most popular sponsored channel of all time on YouTube.”

Hollywood Reporter explains that “Over at Burger King’s YouTube channel, a new application allows consumers to dub their voices in over the animation of select “Cavalcade” videos.”

Google role as a facilitator of unhealthy food products will become part of the global youth obesity and public health debate.