Yesterday, I promised to look into whether or not Nielsen and ComScore were concerned about Google's new Ad Planner tool as some in the blogosphere wondered.
In short, the answer is a big, fat no.
Nielsen Online Chief Marketing Officer Susan Hickey noted that Google, with which Nielsen signed a strategic agreement last October, is an important client with which it explores way to create tools and data sets that deliver insight to not only Google, but the marketplace.
She also said Google previewed Ad Planner for Nielsen several months ago and, while Nielsen has not analyzed the tool in great detail, it believes the marketplace benefits from services that support buying, planning and decision making.
What does that mean? It means Nielsen isn't all that scared of the tool. Why should it be, given its massive influence in the market and access to panels and surveys? Clearly, ComScore poses more of a competitive threat to Nielsen and vice versa.
ComScore, also a Google client, declined to comment for this post, but sources familiar with the Web site measurement industry who spoke under condition of anonymity (really, who can afford to incur the wrath of Google these days?) said Ad Planner is hardly direct competition for these Web measurement firms.
The tool is just not robust enough to provide the feedback of the services Nielsen and ComScore offer to medium and large businesses.
"Free services [like Ad Planner] have been out for years and they've never made a dent," the source told me. "Does this appear to be a cool media-planning tool for Google purposes? Sure, but that doesn't mean it's going to come in and be the independent third party for the industry ... It's not going to be able to report everything that's going on in the industry."
So, why do it then, if it's not going to make a difference? One source said this is Google's bid to get a better idea of how to crack the online display advertising business. Citi Investment Research puts Google's display ad market share at a paltry 5 percent compared with Yahoo's 20 percent or so.
"This is kind of their way to become the intermediary in those transactions, and directly place ads and presumably take their cut," the source said.
Here's another way to look at this. If Google is making a big, effective play in online advertising, ComScore and Nielsen stand to benefit because it generates mucho online dollars.
The more online ad dollars Google brings to the table, the more of the long tail of companies capitalizing off online ad dollars benefit.
ComScore and Nielsen benefit because they're part of that long tail, supporting Google's efforts with their own tools.
So, Nielsen and ComScore may not be up in arms about this, but, like Microsoft before it, Google is becoming perceived as a threat to almost any Internet business segment it enters.
Hence the competitive speculation swirling around Google Ad Planner.