CES: Google's Mohan Says Viewability Gauge Will Spur Multiplatform Adoption

Advertisers, networks and brands "are well behind where consumers are," cautioned Neal Mohan, VP of display and video advertising products for Google, during a headline session at Tuesday's kickoff to CES' new section C Space. "Some of that is technology and issues around measurement. But it's also mindset."

Mohan discussed Google's efforts to close the gap with consumers during a 15-minute presentation followed by a Q&A session with Meredith Kopit Levien, executive VP of advertising for The New York Times. The presentation centered on three core themes, expressed as advice to brands or advertisers looking to take advantage of the environment of YouTube: "pick the moments that matter; build for a world of choice; and focus on impact, not impressions."

A highlight reel touted successful examples of brands harnessing YouTube's power, especially among 18-to-34-year-olds. Nike, for example, developed a World Cup-timed, 5-minute piece that netted more than 100 million views — second-most of any piece of content on YouTube. "Consumers demonstrated they weren't interested in drawing a distinction between advertising and entertainment content," Mohan said.

The conversation came during the inaugural day for the C Space conference at the Aria. Speakers from Twitter, Yahoo, NBCUniversal, GroupM and many other players in the video space are participating in panel sessions on a small exhibition floor. Amazon's Media Group has a hospitality suite, but is not putting any execs forward to speak on panels. Many veteran CES-goers immediately noted a change of pace between the packed Convention Center nexus of the traditional show and this newest mid-Strip outpost, which is drawing a significant crowd but is more subdued than the main show.

Mohan noted an important element driving conversations about online video ads: programmatic technology to streamline the buying process. Citing recent research, he said brands are devoting 20% of their budgets to programmatic solutions, and two-thirds of brands say that amount will double over the next year.

A couple of small news tidbits were sprinkled in among Mohan's slides. For one, he said Google was redoubling its efforts to prove to ad buyers that their creative is viewed by "actual humans." Over the course of this year, it will be rolling out viewability tools that will help it tell advertisers not only whether an ad was served but whether it was muted, in the background or otherwise marginalized.

In addition, Mohan shed some light on its Partner Select private ad exchange, which was announced last year in conjunction with its Google Preferred program. The roster of traditional players that participate in the exchange includes Discovery, CBS, Fox Sports, and Time Inc. magazine brands Time and Sports Illustrated.

Kopit Levien asked Mohan about his reaction to strong online revenue racked up by notorious Sony release The Interview. Google "stepped up," he said, to be one of the initial online distributors of the film, which has now tallied $31 million from digital sales alone. While the hacking scandal that metastasized around its planned Christmas Day release clearly brought a unique set of issues, the film "ties in with a lot of what we have been talking about today. Consumers feel intuitively that content is available in multiple areas, so it's logical that on a big Hollywood movie that they'd gravitate to YouTube."