Google Program Enlists Mini-Sites as Selling Tool for Advertisers
Google is seizing on the popularity of widgets — small online tools that function like mini-Web sites — for its latest push into advertising.
The online giant will announce today a Gadget Ads program that will provide tools for advertisers to run widget ads in Google’s AdSense network.
Marketers can use space within these display ads on Google’s network to show videos, offer chats with celebrities, play host to games or other activities. If consumers like the widget ad, they can save it onto their desktops or on their profile pages online on sites like Facebook and MySpace.
The new widget ads represent a more aggressive push by Google to attract big brand advertisers who like flashy ad units rather than the simple text ads commonly run in Google’s ad network.
One big advantage of the technology is that the consumer does not have to click through to a Web site. A weather widget, for example, would constantly update the weather report in a particular area. Similarly, marketers could feature content to attract consumers while constantly updating their own messages.
More than 48 percent of Internet users in the United States — over 87 million people — now use widgets, according to comScore, the online measurement company. Some of the most popular widgets on Facebook, for example, are the “Top Friends” tool, which allows people to go to their best friends’ profiles with a single click, and iLike, which lets users add music to their profiles.
“Consumers are pulling in content from multiple sources” said Christian Oestlien, a business product manager at Google who is overseeing the new ad program. “It is what we are calling the componentization of the Web. The Web is sort of breaking apart into smaller pieces.”
Many widgets have been built by media outlets, like Lucky Magazine’s shopping widget, which features hot fashion and beauty products. And some companies like Slide are developing networks of widgets made by individuals that advertisers can place ads within.
But consumer brands like Sierra Mist and Honda Civic have also been creating their own widgets as a way of providing content or tools to potential customers. Google is hoping marketers will pay to place these widgets throughout its AdSense network.
Advertisers bid for keywords to place their widget ads in Google’s network in the same way they do other Google ads. Since many users will interact with the ads within the ad units and not click through, Google has developed a new interaction measure to document the interest in the ads.
Google tested its Gadget Ads program this summer with a group of 50 marketers. To encourage more advertisers to make such ads, Google is offering to be host of videos for the ads in YouTube’s servers — a cost-saving for advertising agencies. And Google provides tools for updating the ads, even if marketers do not bid for ads in Google’s network. Marketers pay Google only for the ads that run in its networks and not for any downloading or saving of those ads that consumers may choose to do.
“We’re not trying to monetize every single event that happens in a creative,” Mr. Oestlien said, adding that they wanted advertisers “to make rich creative ads that are really useful to the end user.”
Google’s tools are convenient for ad agencies because they make it easy to create a widget quickly, said Dimitry Ioffe, chief executive of Media Banners, a division of the Visionaire Group, a digital agency based in California. Mr. Ioffe ran a widget ad for Paramount Vantage’s movie “A Mighty Heart” this summer in Google’s new program.
Mr. Ioffe said that Google’s tools to help marketers make widgets more easily may also help them cut expenses. Instead of paying news sites to run videos from a movie’s premiere, for example, studios can make it easy for consumers to post the movie videos on their own sites or social network profiles, providing free advertising.
“Widgets are a dream for marketers,” Mr. Ioffe said. “They allow them to extend their brand off of their individual sites and allow their brands to live as long as consumers want them to live.”