Google Uses Outdoor Billboards To Promote Goog411

Goog411 Billboard
Photo by Mike Blumenthal. Used with permission.

Mike Blumenthal took a picture of a billboard ad in upstate New York for Google’s free directory assistance alternative, Goog411. This is interesting and amusing for a number of reasons.

The company, which has historically not marketed its products (although that is changing), is using a very traditional ad medium to promote its non-traditional local voice search offering. However, people will see this when they’re driving in their cars, which is one of the expected use cases. Another interesting thing is the location, a relatively obscure rural area:

Photo by Mike Blumenthal. Used with permission.

But perhaps that’s also quite intentional, to test a campaign and see if it drives traffic, so to speak.

Postscript: Valleywag picked this up and thinks it’s not a test of the efficacy of traditional media to build an audience for Goog411. Rather they think:

Google is interested in expanding into all forms of advertising, including the $7 billion outdoor market — billboards, that is. Perhaps it’s purchased some billboard space, in the hopes of using its dynamic, auction-based ad-selling system to resell it at a profit. Until it finds buyers, it may be using the billboards to promote its own services.

Clearly Google has an out-of-home strategy (some discussion here), but I’m not sure this is its introduction.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Google: Mobile | Google: Voice Search


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Zachery Coelius

    They have one on 101 in downtown SF. I don’t think they are trying to hide it.

  • Zachery Coelius

    They have one on 101 in downtown SF. I don’t think they are trying to hide it.

  • davidmihm

    Greg, that’s so funny that you’d post this today — I saw a billboard on my way to Metropolitan Golf Links in Oakland this afternoon & suspected the same thing — Google is buying the space on the billboards & planning to re-sell it via an auction system at a later date…

  • gm9901

    There’s a billboard at Polk & Sacramento in San Francisco. They’re not trying to hide or test anything.

  • Mark

    Hi Greg,

    Interesting article.
    Frank Fuchs and I exchanged a few comments about Google experimenting with offline advertising for Google Maps in London, in the beginning of 2007. Seems like they have moved on a bit from window stickers ;)



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