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Google strikes big ad measurement deal with comScore

Google signed a major advertising deal with comScore to help the world's largest Internet search provider win more business from big brands like Kellogg.

Google is integrating comScore's Validated Campaign Essentials, or vCE, measurement technology into its DoubleClick ad business.

The combination will let advertisers and publishers track online ads in near real time, allowing them to change things on the fly if campaigns are not performing as expected. The addition of vCE will also help Google share more data with advertisers about what types of people see their ads and what their interests are.

A sign is posted on the exterior of Google headquarters on January 30, 2014 in Mountain View, California.
Getty Images
A sign is posted on the exterior of Google headquarters on January 30, 2014 in Mountain View, California.

The deal, which has been in the works for almost a year, may affect billions of ads a day, changing the way agencies and big companies run and monitor campaigns. This is part of a broader push by Google to attract more big brands, which have traditionally spent most of their money on TV.

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"To really crack the nut and bring brand dollars to digital advertising, you have to crack the brand-measurement nut," says Neal Mohan, vice president of display advertising at Google. "This integration and partnership with comScore is our bet on real-time audience measurement."

Google already dominates performance-related ads online through its leading search engine, limiting future growth there. Brand advertising is a big market that the company has yet to embrace fully, giving it more room to grow.

The total brand advertising market, which includes digital, TV and more traditional offline ads, is worth at least $300 billion a year. As more of this moves online, Google is positioning itself and partnering with more companies to grab as much of this money as possible.

(Read more: Fox (and Mindy) push limits of native advertising)

Digital brand advertising spending will grow from $18 billion in 2013 to $31 billion by 2017, while spending on direct response, or performance, ads online will climb from $25 billion to $32 billion, according to eMarketer.

Google has been working on its own ad-measurement technology for years. But as the company focuses more on brands, it has become more open to working with third-party measurement firms such as Nielsen and comScore. That's because big ad spenders require independent data on how their campaigns are going and want the data to be comparable with the information they get on the performance of their TV ads.

"The end game is to integrate this with TV measurement," comScore President Serge Matta says. "Most of the ad dollars are on TV, and over time that will shift to digital, and you will want to measure this in real time across all platforms."

Google seems to be favoring comScore over Nielsen as it adopts more third-party measurement services.

(Read more: Google bought $750 million Lenovo stake on January 30)

"DoubleClick is an open platform, and we work with other measurement partners like Nielsen. But this is a deeper integration with comScore," Mohan says. "We've been really impressed with feedback on vCE from the market, including some large advertisers like Kellogg."

Mohan declined to comment on how much money Google or comScore is paying for the deal. However, Matta said Google is paying comScore to use vCE.

"vCE has been generating a significant amount of revenue for comScore. We would not have done this deal if we did not secure significantly more revenue from it," Matta says.

The multiyear deal covers display ads and advertising on video and mobile devices, but it will also extend to future ad products, technology and platforms that Google may develop, according to Mohan and Matta.

"A lot of our technology going forward will be built with comScore vCE, and any advances will be contributed to the partnership," Mohan says.

In early 2013, Google allowed comScore to put its measurement tags on YouTube. These tags are small pieces of html code that are placed on websites to scoop up audience information. Later in the year, Nielsen's OCR measurement technology was also adopted by YouTube.

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But until now, Google's relationships with Nielsen and comScore have mostly been arm's length. When an ad runs on YouTube today, the site has to communicate with the DoubleClick ad server being used by the advertiser or publisher. Then DoubleClick sends information to the measurement firms.

Now Google is building comScore's vCE technology deeply into its DoubleClick platform. No software code integration will be needed. Instead, users will just check a box at the front of their DoubleClick sign-up saying that they want to measure their ad campaign with vCE.

The main benefit will be that advertisers and publishers get data on their campaigns within minutes, rather than the following day, which is typical now, Mohan explained. The tracking technology is also being built into the same system that advertisers and publishers use to manage ad inventory, which means they will be able to change campaigns quicker.

"You can spot that you are not going to hit a target and give the DoubleClick ad server new instructions, and it will respond," he says. "The way it works today, the data would not arrive until a day later, which means some ad dollars will have been wasted."

—By Alistair Barr of USA TODAY

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