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The last we heard from Google on TV advertising, cofounder Sergey Brin gloated that "interest" and "bookings" were up. He told us that "the remarkable thing about television advertising, is that it is almost as accountable as online advertising." I didn't believe him then. The news that Nielsen has agreed to provide Google with demographic data on television audiences makes me even more skeptical. This just shows that Google had no idea what it was getting into when it decided to try to get into selling TV ads.

As long as viewers can't click on a television commercial or otherwise alert an advertiser that their pitch succeeded or failed, TV commercials will remain undertargeted and obnoxious. Yes, that means Chevy will continue to tell you this is our country for quite some time.

Here's what I think Brin meant to say, but couldn't.

Google is currently testing TV advertising with satellite provider EchoStar, which just purchased Sling Media. Sling Media makes a device called the Slingbox. It relays television through the Internet for viewing on a PC.

If Google were to introduce an advertising unit similar to its YouTube InVideo ads for this subset of TV viewers, it could, perhaps, start to make TV advertising as accountable as Brin suggested it already was.

When a Google TV/EchoStar advertiser's commercial shows up on a PC screen through a Slingbox, Google could make a link to the advertiser available. Then, Google would have click-through data and actual accountability. But not until then.

For now, all Google can determine is whether a given TV set is actually turned on and tuned to a specific channel at the time an ad runs; it also claims to detect when people change channel in the middle of an ad. But if you go to the toilet mid-ad? Google has no clue. The fact that it had to turn to Nielsen to supplement this with demographics about the people watching an ad just goes to show how weak Google's TV-ad data really is. Funny how no one seems to be holding Google accountable for this.

(Photo by danagraves)