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

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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