NOT satisfied with its estimated two-thirds share of the $600 million-plus annual search and directories advertising market, internet search giant Google is launching an attack on the online display advertising dollar.
And it is not just by trying to get a bigger share of display advertising budgets (the money that advertisers spend on video, pop-ups and banner ads). That is slow going, given 97 or 98 per cent of Google's worldwide revenues are still derived from paid search ads, as opposed to video ads placed on its YouTube website, for example.
Rather, the company is attempting to stimulate growth by trying to persuade entire categories of advertisers that in these uncertain times, a larger share of their online advertising budgets should be devoted to paid search advertising at the cost of display.
For a company whose entire business model is based largely on a faceless internet interface -- the AdWords online auction system advertisers use to bid for the most relevant search keywords -- Google is about to get pretty personal.
It is loading up industry-specific sales teams with research and sending them out to talk to local advertisers, starting with some of the online display industry's cornerstone clients: the big information and technology companies.
According to Yuri Narciss, who heads Google's technology sales team, the biggest Australian IT advertisers are underspending on search.
In fact, Google claims many of them are underspending on all forms of internet advertising -- display, classified and search advertising -- with some devoting just 5 per cent of their total mass media measured advertising budget to online (based on an analysis of Nielsen's AdEx data). The internet (including display, classified and search advertising) generates just over 10 per cent of the $12 billion Australian advertising industry.
``My key objective is that the internet and AdWords become one of their main communication channels,'' says Narciss, who recently arrived in Australia and previously worked for Google in Europe.
``In some of the more progressive (online markets), 30 per cent of advertising budgets are going online and 40 to 50 per cent of that is going to paid search,'' Narciss says.
If it seems counter-intuitive that big IT advertisers are under-spending online, it is. The IT category is one of the biggest categories of advertisers on the internet in Australia.
But Google maintains the vast bulk of small IT companies who spend more than the average are generating a lot of that activity.
Meanwhile, IT is not the only sector to be targeted. A sales team numbering about 40 staff is looking to do the same thing across the travel, retail, automotive and local (or classified) advertising sectors, as well as IT.
It's more competition for publishers such as Ninemsn, Fairfax and News Digital Media, who have rolled out industry-specific websites in areas such as technology specifically to create more display inventory in these categories. It's also more competition for mainstream media such as the television networks.
The argument Google is making to advertisers is persuasive: for the cost of buying one 30-second TV spot, you might be able to own your favourite keyword terms on Google for a month. In a tight market, the question becomes: which one is most likely to boost sales?
It's ironic that the only thing that might cruel this pitch is the relatively underdone state of the local e-commerce market. Once a potential buyer clicks on a Google search ad and goes through to an advertiser's website, they may not be able to perform the key thing paid search advertising promises: the ability to drive sales.