Brand advertising is the X-factor of the online advertising land grab — Google knows it needs to tap into brand/display advertising to grow, but Eric Schmidt knows they’ve got a problem:

“It’s a question of whether our system, which is so highly measurable, can really handle that . . . We have not yet come up with an approach that meets the kind of measurable . . . based advertising that we’d really like to put our brand and our name behind.”

Ah, the irony. Google came along and made advertising into an honest, measurable, P&L business — and companies signed up in droves, to the tune of $6 billion. But there are many more billions of ad dollars that still play by the old, unmeasurable, smoke-and-mirrors “branding” rules.

So the irony is that Google is a victim of its own success — they’re so darn measurable and accountable that they have no idea how to play the brand advertising shell game.

Brand building by its nature is non-transactional, so it’s inherently “unmeasurable,” at least according to the transactional, P&L standards of pay-per-click advertising — which is really a form of direct marketing. Branding and direct marketing are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and Google is caught at the far end.

Google wants to get into video advertising and become the broker for TV advertising. Let’s hope for the sake of Google shareholders that Google does better with video brand advertising than it did with print brand advertising — and that niche sites don’t get wise to fact that they don’t need Google to sell brand advertising.