Google has begun experimenting with a new method of running targeted display advertisements: allowing brands to promote their Google+ posts throughout Google’s entire network of products. That means that any piece of media that a business puts on Google+ can be seen on products like Gmail, Google web search, and Google Maps.
At LeWeb in Paris, France, Bradley Horowitz, the leader of Google+, told the crowd: “It’s a new means of engaging users over the Google display network. It allows for much richer engagement as opposed to just a display ad or traffic-generation ad.”
The goal of these new Google+ post ads is to increase user engagement of ads. Google’s hypothesis (which they are testing in this pilot program) is that users will engage more with an ad that looks like a social post than with a typical display ad. As Google’s Eran Arkin put it: “Brand advertisers want to create visually rich, compelling experiences online, which is why we’ve seen growing interest from advertisers in formats designed around engagement.” He continued: “This lets brands think of the entire web as their social stream.”
The ads are inspired by other recent Google ad products that have included Google+ features, such as social annotations on search ads and “Hangouts on Air” ads on the YouTube masthead. Google claims that these products have seen strong user engagement, so the idea behind this new Google+ Post ad format is that advertisers will be able to drive engagement even further if Google ads look like social posts.
This program is being tested with a select group of ad partners, including Toyota USA, Ritz crackers, and Cadbury UK. Google claims that these brands are already seeing expansion and engagement rate 50% higher than the industry average for other types of rich media ads. Google will almost certainly tweak the ads in the coming months to drive engagement up further and to make these results more applicable.
Implications and subtext
What does this mean for you, the average web publisher?
This is just one more example of the gradual progression towards rich, social advertisements instead of bland, stale, static advertisements. Of course, it’s all a continuum; we aren’t going to see all social ads, all the time. That’s unreasonable and untenable.
We can, however, see an increased proportion of the advertisements that run on sites via ad networks skewing towards social, rich, and engaging advertisements. Expect 2014 to be all about user engagement. Ads will become increasingly designed and optimized for maximum user engagement. In Google’s case, increased engagement can help them learn even more about individual users. In a self-iterating way, Google can then show even better-targeted ads to these users from whom they’ve collected this new user engagement data.
In some cases, that will mean social ads. In other cases, it may very well mean understated text ads. Facebook is experimenting with auto-playing videos in order to drive user engagement and click-through rates.
This certainly is not the last you’ll see of these new social-driven advertisements.