Google is already a major player in display advertising and is poised to become even more formidable in the next few years. Not so quietly the company has amassed or built a huge array of assets that could see it best many if not most other display competitors and networks, including market leader Yahoo. Google clearly also sees display and rich media (across PC, mobile and maybe TV) as helping to power its next phase of revenue growth.
To that end AdAge reports that Google is prepared to integrate display advertising beyond YouTube across its various properties including, potentially, Google Maps and Gmail:
But perhaps the more significant strategy on display was [Google VP Neal] Mohan’s presentation of what he called the Google Display Network, which included YouTube as well as Google properties Google Finance, Google Maps, Google Books and even Gmail. Mr. Mohan did not detail what a display unit might look like in Gmail, and a company insider said it has yet to work out the specific ad requirements against those properties. Google Finance, for example, did not initially feature advertising, but it now runs rectangle-sized ads.
Nothing of course has been formally announced but Google’s Mahon was speaking at a “press briefing,” which suggests these ideas are fairly developed internally. (See postscript below for clarification after conversation with Google.)
Mapquest recently toned down the number of ads it shows on its site, though it still has a single large display ad. And one of the unfortunate features, in my opinion, of Yahoo Mail is its display advertising. Yet Yahoo Mail generates huge impression volume for the company and is a prime outlet for its behavioral targeting.
Google needs to be careful in executing such a plan. Even where “relevant” display ads can be annoying (think Facebook).
The industry has often turned to behavioral targeting to remedy what are otherwise creative deficiencies in display. If Google similarly starts pushing mediocre ads into its various properties, including Maps and Gmail, they will become considerably less desirable to use.
Postscript: I received a call from Google that sought to clarify what was announced. I was told that the Google Content Network has been re-branded the “Google Display Network.” This already includes properties such as Maps, GMail and others of course.
Google said that some properties within the Google Display Network will receive only text ads and won’t see rich media or traditional display units. So there may be no changes to ads shown in Maps or Gmail and elsewhere.
The AdAge story suggested the opposite and apparently got it wrong.