When Brand Advertising Comes Back, Google Gets Eclipsed

The well-respected blogger Ben Thompson wrote quite a controversial post titled Peak Google after seeing Google’s Q3 earnings. While Google’s ad business obviously isn’t in serious trouble, the numbers led Ben to contemplate the fact that while Google has totally captured the search advertising business, search represents a scant 10% ($50 billion), of the $545 billion total online ad spend this year. And in the future, it might represent far less.

Where is the rest of that big spend going?  It’s going to brand advertising (through various media like TV and social), the kind of advertising Google taught us to disdain. Google has told us for a decade that we should value only direct response or performance ads. The result is the ridiculous metric of CTRs, which in no way represent the consumer’s entire response to an ad.

Especially on a mobile device.

On mobile, brand advertising is making a comeback.

…over the last few years a new type of advertising has emerged: native advertising. I’ve already made my defense of native advertising here, but just to be clear, I classify any sort of “in-stream” advertising as native advertising. Thus, for a news site, native advertising is advertising in article format; for Twitter, native advertising is a promoted tweet; for Facebook, native advertising is ads in your news feed; for Pinterest (a future giant) a promoted pin. These sorts of ads are proving to be massively more effective and engaging than banner advertisements – as they should be! In every medium (except, arguably, newspapers, which had geographic monopolies) native advertising is the norm simply because it’s more effective for advertisers and a better experience for users.

Thompson goes on to argue that TV commercials are mostly for brand advertising, as are jingles and magazine ads.

And all those are coming to mobile, in large part as digital video. All those brand advertising dollars from TV, flowing to mobile, has already caused the industry to examine potential new metrics for measuring an ad’s effectiveness, such as engagement (time spent with the ad) and video completion rates.

There’s no guarantee that Google will be able to win at this new game. Native advertising, and brand advertising in general, requires immersive content, and the social streams and Tier 1 publishers have most of that. As do some startups like Buzzfeed.

On the other hand, that’s not to say that Google will not continue to be profitable. Thompson compares it to IBM and Microsoft, each of which is still alive and profitable, although not the industry leader it was in the past. He says Google will not get “disrupted,” so much as it will get “eclipsed.”