Google, which built its empire with text-based ads in paid links, this week is beginning to test video ads on its Web site, part of the company's evolving universal search strategy that mixes images, videos, and other information with its traditional text links.
The idea is to provide a richer search experience more akin to what you'd see on TV. Why video ads? Google made $16 billion in ad revenue last year, but the market for text ads is bound to slow as it matures and video, along with mobile ads is considered a green field.
After seeding the Wall Street Journal with the story last week, the company isn't giving further briefings on the testing anymore than they are providing samples of the ads, which will generated through search results. So, if you get lucky and see a video on a new car or a Axe body spray or something, drop me a line.
Universal search mixes images, videos, news stories and other information with the text links to Web pages, providing a search experience more akin to what you'd see on TV. Google wants to pair the images and videos with new ad formats for consistency's sake.
A Google spokesman told me that ads with accompanying videos will have a small button with a plus sign, a subtle way of throwing an ad on a search result page and seeing if it sticks. Users that click the plus button will see a small video player that shows a commercial or movie trailer.
How small is small? If it's too small, how will people notice it and click on it? Frankly, I don't even notice text ads enough to click on them, but maybe I'm an aberration and thus a money-making search engine's worst nightmare.
Again though, for Google, this is only a test and the company, which provides itself on a clean, non-intrusive user interface, does not want to overwhelm its searchers sensibilities by plastering video ads everywhere.
Marissa Mayer, vice president of search and user experience for Google, told the Journal advertisers will not pay extra to put video in the ads --- for now.
Per the usual method, advertisers will enter a price they will pay for a click in Google's text-ad auction. The advertiser will make money when users click to see the video, even if they never click through to the advertiser's site.
One thing there is no doubt about is that people are watching a lot of video online. According to new research from comScore, 20 percent of viewers averaged 841 minutes of online viewing per month. Moderate viewers, or 30 percent of the users, averaged 77 minutes per month. Good news for Google: YouTube is reaches 54 percent of online video viewers.
I'm curious to see how this will pan out after a year or so. What will the ad conversion rate be for that top 20 percent of viewers who seem to be using their PC as an alternative for their TV? Will the people who spend more time watching video click on more ads, or will they tire of the process the way a channel surfer bounces between channels on his TV set to avoid the ads?
What do you think? Feast or famine for online video ads?