Google vs Thinkbox - who's right?


Google and Thinkbox have been at odds recently - both with their own axes to grind. Jonathan Waite, Group Account Director in AV Planning at Amplifi, looks at the facts behind the furore.

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If you like to follow a good ol’ fashioned media punch-up, the recent comments from Google at its Brandcast event and the ensuing counter-strike from Thinkbox will not have escaped your attention.

Read Jerry Daykin's take on this here and Tech Insider's version here.

This is certainly a hot topic, and something that as an entirely neutral media planner (with eight years spent planning TV and video campaigns) I’ve invested a lot of time into exploring over the past few years, particularly recently with the TV Stack development.

Both Google and Thinkbox obviously have their own agendas to pursue - Google appears to be overlooking the value of all available AV channels in the UK, with the likes of Broadcaster VOD platforms, Facebook video and a wealth of quality video content around the web, so to suggest a full 24% into YouTube alone is a little over-confident, although you have to admire the bravado…

Then Thinkbox CEO Lindsay Clay dismissed Google’s comments as ‘laughable’ and ‘self-serving’ – but of course Thinkbox is just as self-serving and would naturally jump to defend TV budgets; it does after all zealously represent TV advertising in the UK above all else.

The issue at hand is a real one; for the past few years we’ve seen a steady decline in Impacts on TV (-4% last year) and continued growth in advertiser’s revenues. This leads to inflation year after year whilst the profile of TV viewing becomes older, so advertisers are spending more and more every year on TV whilst the profile of their audience ages.

Thinkbox itself released a great piece of research around video and the youth market “The Truth About Youth”.

The study showed that 16-24’s spend half of all their time consuming video content on non-live TV platforms such as catch-up, VOD, YouTube, Facebook and other OLV platforms (and a casual 7% on porn, if you were wondering). It also showed the importance of short, snackable, easily digestible content for this audience segment. Therefore is it so ‘laughable’ for Google to suggest that 24% of advertiser’s budgets should move from TV into other AV platforms?

Google themselves have since admitted that the 24% figure is representative of 16-34 adults as opposed to all individuals and that also the number was intended to inspire a level of debate (which indeed it has), had they come out saying 24% needs to go into all online AV channels, I’m sure that sentiment could well be widely echoed.

There are however, rightly so, questions raised around brand safety with online video and questions of viewability. The online video industry has taken great steps in these areas to avail concerns but as an AV planner these are the concerns I hear about most from advertisers.

Viewability is somewhat of a misnomer in my opinion; we all assume that a TV ad impact means that it's viewed – but the truth is far from it. We see increasingly how many people are multi-screening whilst watching TV (anywhere between 60-70% depending on who you ask), which means attention is being drawn away from the TV set. We know also that people leave the room, engage in conversation and do a number of other things that aren't being glued to our advertising, let us not be naive about it. This isn't to say that the IABs standard measure of viewability is robust enough; it is not in my opinion, but for a like for like measure, we are still talking about an 'opportunity to see' in both cases.

Thinkbox angrily wave the finger about the value of a TV impact vs. the value of an OLV impact and criticise Google for not producing any research to show that indeed they are (or are not) at parity. But the onus falls on all of us, including Thinkbox, to answer this question.

At Amplifi we’re working with our brands and research partners to answer just that at the moment and importantly we’re looking at what impact it has on hard business results such as ROI. What’s clear so far is that the best results are achieved when both TV and OLV are used in conjunction and planning is done with a singular view of the audience at its heart (and not media first).

I’m sure further hot debate will ensue but it’s fair to say that the Amplifi TV Stack has well and truly had its public outing; as media planners the challenge falls to us to navigate the “self-serving” context of both of these recent releases from Thinkbox and Google and we’re well and truly geared up for that! 

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