Are You Ready for the Google Radio Wave Invasion?

Google acquired dMarc nearly a year ago, but we have yet to see the search engine do anything with the radio advertising company. What are its plans? Hugo Guzman thinks Google just might change the face of radio advertising…and you’d best be ready for it.

Imagine the future: you’re driving in your car, listening to your favorite radio station. An ad comes over the radio waves, telling you about an album you’ve been thinking about getting, or a movie that features one of your favorite bands, or a T-shirt with a photo of your favorite singer. It’s as if the radio knows what you like, and tailors the advertising message based on your personal preferences…almost like Google AdWords, but for your radio.

Well according to industry experts, that future might not be too far off. SEO media pundits are beginning to buzz about Google’s acquisition of dMarc, a company devoted to delivering targeted and automated advertising to radio stations across the United States. Big “G” paid $102 million to acquire dMarc back in January of this year, and according to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, they have big plans for this burgeoning facet of their overall business model.

Back in June, Schmidt spoke to a group of publishing executives, outlining a detailed vision for the future of location-based delivery of targeted and personalized advertising on the radio waves. He didn’t reveal any information on exactly how dMarc fits into that vision, but clearly this big-ticket acquisition is slotted to be the vehicle for the realization of this high-tech dream.

And Schmidt has plenty of reasons for championing this cause; actually, the reasons number in the billions. According to projections made by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, in their “Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2005-2009,” the market for radio advertising will undergo tremendous growth over the next three years or so. Digital and satellite radio subscriptions, as well as the attraction to advertisers of radio’s broad reach and cost-effective pricing, will help the U.S. radio ad market achieve sales of close to or above $24 billion in 2009. That’s several billion dollars higher than the current $20 billion plateau that the industry has been sitting on for several years. And what’s interesting about this figure is that while traditional radio ad sales may slump in the coming years, due to increased competition with the local cable television market, that dip will be offset by a sharp increase in demand for satellite radio.

{mospagebreak title=Google’s Target}

And satellite radio is exactly where Google plans to strike first, as evidenced by its recent deal with XM Satellite radio. The Google Audio Ads service is currently in an alpha test stage within the XM infrastructure, according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, with Google’s sales force selling ads on a limited number of radio stations owned by Emmis Communications and Greater Media.

This is a huge step, because it marks the first time that a major media company has actually gotten some “hands-on” experience delivering AdWords-style ads on a major national radio portal. There are bound to be some hiccups, and Google execs have been extremely tight-lipped about the whole procedure, but eventually the two media giants will figure things out and subsequently roll out a full-fledged version of this new form of radio advertising.

Clearly, the key to this venture has been the acquisition of dMarc. Google must have been very impressed with the inner workings of dMarc’s offering, because according to the website, “Google’s advertisers are looking to broaden their advertising options in effective ways, and radio presents a great opportunity. So we searched for a solution provider who shared our belief in accountability, and whose technology and commitment to customer service would mesh with those of our own operations. And dMarc fit the bill perfectly.” Those are strong words and a strong vote of confidence.

But what exactly does dMarc do?

Basically, the application connects advertisers and agencies directly to radio stations via a web interface similar to that of the current AdWords service. Virtually every aspect is automated, and that includes sales, scheduling, delivery and reports. This enables advertisers to purchase and track their campaigns in the same way that they would for a traditional AdSense ad. And more importantly, it translates to much more attractive ROI and metrics for the end user.

I, for one, would love the ability to create customized radio ads that would target local listeners, especially if I can manage and control ROI in a manner similar to the all-important CPM or CPC model that is currently used in AdSense and the other mainstream SEM avenues.

{mospagebreak title=Two Important Questions} 

As all good SEM and SEO professionals know, the key to effective advertising and promotion is being able to analyze and manage the amount of money being spent, and the exposure that money is creating. And this is why most of us stick to online advertising mediums, as opposed to print, television, or even radio ad formats.

So the question at hand is two-fold. How long will it take for this new ad format to become mainstream, and how can I take advantage of it when it finally gets here?

I can only provide a very vague answer to the first part of this question, because nobody, including Google, really knows when dMarc will be ready for the “real world.” Google Corporate Communications official Michael Mayzel has been quoted as saying that a beta version of the product will be released by year’s end, but no official word has been released. And even if this goal for a beta is realized, it could be months, if not years, before a full-fledged version is unleashed on the ad-buying public.

So there’s no need to for haste. We all have plenty of time to plan and prepare for the eventual release of this AdWords-for-radio product.

But when it finally does come out, what exactly should a responsible SEO/SEM administrator do with it? I’ll tell what I would do with it:

If I were using it to promote my football news portal,, I would start by picking out a few test samples. Perhaps I would focus on a handful of our most popular and well-represented teams. Once the creative has been, well, created, it would be a matter of running the ads and measuring the ROI. Obviously, I have no idea of what types of metrics tools will be offered, if any, but based on the fact that dMarc will be modeled after the current AdWords format, I can assume that some sort of reporting data will be available.

So really, it’s just a matter of making little tweaks and adjustments, and getting a feel for what I can and can’t do with the interface. Again, the key would be to start small, with just a sampling of my offerings, until I can work out all the kinks and figure out if my expenditure is worthwhile. As with all novel advertising mediums, it does not pay to go full-throttle from the getgo.

{mospagebreak title=Rocky Start in Store?}

One side-note that I’m curious to learn more about is what unit of measure Google will use for delivering these targeted ads. With AdWords, Google simply counts clicks, and charges a set amount for each click-through. But with radio ads, the mechanism will not be as easily quantified. If I had to guess, I would say that the model that will be employed should involve CPM (cost per thousand deliveries of said advertisement).

Unfortunately, since I don’t have access to the dMarc interface as of yet, I cannot give a definite answer. But it’s a topic that has truly piqued my curiosity. I’m sure that once the beta finally rolls out, this and many other questions will begin to be answered with a much higher degree of clarity.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, at this point, I think that even the folks at Google don’t have a definite grasp on how they will go about executing this proposed radio advertising revolution, so don’t expect things to go smoothly right away. The bottom line is to approach advertising via Google dMarc with guarded optimism.

Google’s grand ambition is to take over advertising on all facets of mainstream media, which includes online (which they already dominate), print, television, and radio. However, an undertaking of this magnitude will likely take years to accomplish, and that’s assuming that it ever comes to fruition. In fact, some pundits believe that Google has bitten off more than it can chew by attempting to transition their AdWords platform to radio, and that their progressive approach to advertising will never catch on because it flies in the face of the establishment over at Madison Avenue. They also point to Google’s unmitigated failure (three times over and working on a fourth) in penetrating the print market.

But it would be senseless to ignore this advertising avenue, when and if it begins to roll out, especially when you consider the success that Google has had since its inception.

The bottom line is this: if AdWords works for your business now, there’s a good chance that dMarc will work for your business in the future. It’s still too early to get a clear fix on what to do and when to do it, but keeping abreast of the latest developments and employing a pioneering and adventuresome spirit could pay huge dividends if and when Google finally does begin taking over the radio waves.

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