GroupM’s Bologna: Google’s Android System Is What TV Media Buyers Have Been Waiting For

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January 16, 2012 – 1:58 am

Mike Bologna of GroupMThis past week's Consumer Electronics Show was all about the usual Apple accessories and much of the talk was about the Macbook Air-like Ultrabook. Aside from that, major TV media buyers were also at CES in abundance – though at first glance, it may have been hard to see why.

Sure, there are a great many products that will be looking for agencies this year. But with "smart TVs" being viewed more and more as "TVs" plain and simple, maybe this is the year that media buyers have start looking at biggest screen in the living room as a platform in its own right.

That's why the execs from WPP's GroupM were there. While a small tour with GroupM CEO Irwin Gotlieb that showcased touched on some truly spectacular improvements in HDTV sets (you didn't know you needed them, but really, look to OLED and 4K sets in 2013) and even LG's very impressive 3D sets, Mike Bologna, Managing Partner Director of Emerging Communications at the agency, offered some quick thoughts about what it all means for advertisers – and why broadcast buyers needed to be here this year. You were just trumpeting the value of Google's Android system. Google TV has been getting a few more positive notices recently, after a disappointing debut last year. But why is Android so impressive to you?

Mike Bologna: Android 4.0 is the greatest operating system for connected devices available right now. It works just the same on a 4-inch tablet, a 5-inch smartphone or a 75-inch connected television. Remember, with connected televisions, last year, there was maybe 20 million in play and one million actually being used because you needed a wire to connect it. All of the connected televisions are wireless now. Just like your laptop. No one has an extra wire on the wall where their television is, except for an HDMI line and a power cord. That is the future of this business.

So with the similarity between the TV and the laptop serving as the foundation for the next wave of TV advertising, does that mean that TV ads become more like online -- which is still generally driven by cheap, direct response ads as opposed to expensive, creative branding campaigns?

That means TV ads become more like online ads in the sense that we can go beyond content being a surrogate for the audience. We go beyond just targeting consumers based on programming, beyond sending a commercial just to 'everyone.' We target the people we want and ignore the ones who wouldn't be interested. Ultimately, we reduce our waste and improve our ROI.

But how big is the universe of these smart TVs that can serve as platforms for targeted ads? What's meaningful here to advertisers?

What's meaningful to advertisers right now we can insert to 25 percent of all usable, connected televisions with a common advertising platform. Plus, we get data back that's helping us prepare for when we're at 50- and 75 percent. And we will be there in less than two years.

What does CES mean for agencies? Is there any practical reason for being at this show?

It means identifying the technology that will impact our business for the next 18- to 36 months. It also means identifying the technology that will impact our business right now and planning out test scenarios, hedging our bets and making necessary investments.

And what doesn't it mean for agencies? It's not a place to party and too many believe that. We've done four tours with 77 clients and 11 breakout sessions with the technology that we believe will impact our business in 2012 and recommend what they should be doing. Since many of these technologies are not out in the marketplace yet and it's difficult to get a good sense of how they compare, there are things here that have to be experienced first hand.

Right now, the most important thing is for our industry at CES is the realization, for the first time ever in our business, of a consistent operating system across all connected devices. Here's one thing to think about: there are seven screen formats out there. There are seven ways to watch Grey's Anatomy: streaming on your PC, DVR, VOD, full-episode player, a smartphone, a tablet and a connected TV. Connecting it all together and managing ad frequency – again, that is the future of our business.

Is that why Android is so important right now? Because they're the only ones offering that consistent connection? Or is the value due to the system itself being that good, that robust?

It's both. Droid, and now the Ice Cream Sandwich Android operating system, is robust. And last year, it was limited to certain devices. Now it's opening up to everything – not now, but the year after, you'll see that much more consistent interface across 50 percent of consumers' devices.

By David Kaplan

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January 16, 2012 – 1:58 am

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