One of the least discussed topics in the world, or at least the world of online advertising, concerns where ads really run.
The case being brought against Google by Boston lawyer Hal K. Levitte, might expose far more than Google's alleged involvement in ads that the wrong people see, or, perhaps, that no one sees at all.
Mr. Levitte, depressingly, looks nothing like Boston Legal's William Shatner.
However, he makes the kind of arguments that Shatner's character, Denny Crane, has long foisted upon unsuspecting bit part actors on the show.
Mr. Levitte seems rather upset that he spent $136.11 with Google and saw no success from this big brand expenditure. (I can already hear Denny Crane crying "UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!!")
He blames the fact that Google slipped a considerable number of the ads- yes, more than 200,000- on parked domain names (internet addresses that are pageless) and another 1000 or so on error pages, the ones that come up when you type a URL that doesn't exist because you've taken one sip too many of your Auntie Jonelle's port.
"Yes," we hiss. "Go get 'em, Mr. Levitte."
Because Google is not alone in sending advertising to the Online Gobi.
When advertising agencies buy online video, you will find it very rare indeed that anyone from agencies' media planning or buying departments ever bothers to check where the ads actually ran. They're just happy to "fill up their budgets."
So some media owners, like fake Rolex salesman in glamorous upstairs hovels, take advantage by buying up obscure sites and slipping the majority of the purchased frequency onto these sites.
However, just as Denny Crane quickly wafts to flights of argumentative fancy (which he sometimes attributes to his Mad Cow Disease), so Mr. Levitte creates some levitative logic when he suggests that though some people did indeed click through to his law firm's rather barebonesish site, none filled out the form on it.
And, even more cruel, none called or wrote.
No media seller will ever guarantee conversion.
It is the hardest thing to achieve and is not just dependent on the media placement. Surely Mr. Levitte might concede that his site's design and copywriting- or, some might say, the lack of either- just might have contributed to a disappointing return on the tip he left at a fancy Boston restaurant.
I'm sorry, I mean on his $136.11 advertising commitment.
Unless, of course, in a flight of dubiously-engineered confidence, someone at Google promised him conversion.
No, they wouldn't have done that. Not Google. They wouldn't. Would they?
In which case, should Mr. Levitte succeed in his action, one can only imagine what episodes might ensue. One little lawsuit can give birth to some very classy actions.
Just imagine if Viacom discovered that Google was running some of its ads on parked domain pages and error sites.