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Word Association Ads at Starbucks

Is this new, or have Starbucks and Google been running these silly-question ads for a while? I just logged on to the free wifi at a Starbucks location in San Francisco, and it served up a quick word-association quiz. When I say salsa, do you say dancers or tacos? After I picked tacos, I was served a taco-oriented video ad (provided by Google) for my viewing pleasure.

Word Association Ad at Starbucks

I wonder how this format is working. I participated in Part I (I answered the quiz question), but skipped Part II (watching the video ad). Anyone have experience with this kind of campaign? Are people other than me tuning in to the ads?

US Ad Spending for 2012

2012 US Ad Spending by Media

From the IAB’s report on US ad spending for 2012. Digital ad spending is up 15% over 2011, with retailers (20%) and financial services (13%) representing the biggest spending sectors.

US Online Advertising 2012 Without Google

It’s interesting, though, to imagine this chart (as I’ve hacked together, above) if you remove one company from it, Google. When you subtract out international revenue and the former Motorola business (see Marketing Land), and you multiply the difference by 96% (the share of Google’s revenues that come from advertising), Google’s US ad revenues for 2012 were nearly $19 billion. Pulling Google out of the mix, US advertisers spent less than $18 billion on internet advertising last year — somewhere between newspapers and radio.

Newspaper Ad Revenues in the Google Era

Newspaper Ad Revenues Since 2001

A chart created by Alan D. Mutter that plots US newspaper ad revenues against Google’s revenues (almost all of which are advertising). Note: Google numbers are global, while the newspaper numbers are US only. Google’s US revenues are closer to $16 billion.

From PaidContent:

The speed with which billions of dollars in advertising revenue simply evaporated over the past decade is incredible: as [economics professor Mark Perry] notes, after adjusting the figures for inflation, total print ad spending last year of about $19 billion was below the level set in 1950. It took 50 years — a generation, in other words — for ad revenue to go from $20 billion to a peak of $65 billion in 2000, but it only took 12 years for that progress to be erased.

Google’s Biggest Advertisers Q3 2012

Full infographic at Wordstream.

Google Launches Paid Inclusion Search Ads

Google is changing the look-and-feel and the label they put on an ad product they used to call “comparison ads.” Now Google would like us to consider them a “third kind of thing” — not quite organic results, and not quite ads. From Search Engine Land:

Google has had what it has called ‘comparison ads’ for some time, but these comparison units are getting a new look in Google’s search results beginning today. Google hopes the change will better explain to searchers that comparison listings come from companies it has a commercial relationship with. It also highlights how three Google search products now seem to largely operate on a paid inclusion basis. Google was once a vocal opponent to paid inclusion programs…. In the new format, the background color that’s used for Google’s traditional AdWords units is gone. The comparison units also carry a ‘Sponsored’ disclaimer rather than an ‘Ads’ one, as with AdWords ads. This seems part of Google’s positioning the new units as something different than ads.

Hmmm. Slippery slope?!

Time-Spent with Google+ Is Less Than One-Percent That of Facebook

“New data from research firm comScore Inc. shows that Google+ users are signing up — but then not doing much there,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Google+ has racked up 90 million registered users, but the average computer user only spends 3 minutes per month on the service. Those same users are spending nearly 7 hours per month with Facebook, 140 TIMES more minutes than the time-spent with Google+.

There are two ways to look at those numbers, I suppose. One, lots of people barely use Google+. Or two, some people love Google+ deeply and use it all the time, but they make up a small group so their power (as measured in minutes per internet user) is diluted by a large denominator. There are some snarky critics who believe the latter; in fact they suspect the small group of Google+ users is pretty much just people who work at Google.

Come on, that just can’t be true! The global internet population is about 2.3 billion. On average they each spent 7 hours last month with Facebook, but since only 845 million of them are actually using Facebook, that means the average Facebook user spent more like 19 hours Facebooking.

If, on average, each of the 2.3 billion internet users also spent 3 minutes with Google+ last month, that’s 6.9 billion minutes, or 115,000 hours. Divide that by Google’s 33,000 employees, and you get 3,485 hours per month per person. Which is pretty darn good, considering there are only 720 hours in a month. This suggests that the snarks are at least a little bit wrong. But if they’re not, and every single Google employee is using Google+ more than 24 hours a day, then Google has a giant hit on its hands — if only they can get more people to use it as enthusiastically as Googlers do.

Logos Make a Mark on Five Year Olds

I’m guessing you’ve already seen this video made by graphic designer Adam Ladd and his five-year-old daughter. She thinks Google Chrome looks like a beachball, and “beachballs are really colorful!” To her Jaguar, Puma and Greyhound logos are all the same — cheetahs! — which is probably great for Greyhound, but not so great for the other two that a young innocent set of eyes can’t tell their logos apart from the one for a long-distance bus line. And I love her interpretation of the Golden Arches: An M for McDonalds that’s made out of french fries. (Does everyone think that? I never made the french fry connection.)

What’s most interesting to me, though, is how thoroughly the logos in her life have come stand in for whole categories of products and services. I’m guessing her family doesn’t own an X-Box, but her friend does and she thinks of its logo as “the thing that controls the TV at Ryan’s house.” She knows that the Mercedes logo is attached to cars and recognizes the Pepsi logo as “the pop from the pizza place.” Starbucks and BP symbols have achieved even more: They’ve become visual synonyms for coffee and gas, products this kids is still years away from consuming herself.

Should Google Ban Itself for Paid Link Violation?

Google’s recent online ad campaign for its Chrome browser appears to violate its own policy around buying links that might affect a company’s rank in Google’s search results. Google blames its agency, the aptly-named Unruly Media.

From Search Engine Land:

The arrow points to a link leading to the Google Chrome download page. This is a straight link, not blocked with nofollow. It only appears in this post because the post is part of a sponsored campaign by Google, as noted at the bottom of the page. Therefore, both the author and Google itself are in violation of Google’s guidelines and risk being banned by Google….

Paid links drew much attention last year, after Google penalized JC Penney, as well as Forbes and Overstock for using them. Google even banned BeatThatQuote, one of its own companies last year over the issue. In 2009, Google penalized Google Japan for its own search results for the same issue, not removing it but reducing its ability to rank for 11 months.

Potentially, all this means that Google will have to ban the Google Chrome download page over paid links. That would suck for Google, since it’s busy running ads for Google Chrome, which will in turn prompt people to search for it. Right now, the page appears at the top of results for searches on google chrome….

Ouch.

UPDATE 3:26pm 1/3/2011. From All Things D:

Google, which says it had no idea it was paying bloggers to promote its Chrome browser, is punishing itself for doing so. The search giant tells Danny Sullivan it will penalize the “pagerank” of www.google.com/chrome for “at least 60 days.”

Adblock Plus No Longer Blocking Good Ads

Last month Adblock Plus changed its default settings. The browser extension will still block most online ads, but it will now present its 10 million users with “acceptable ads” when it finds them — banners that aren’t blinking, offensive or generally annoying. Full story at the New York Times.

From a PR perspective, the timing of this development is unfortunate, given that the organizer of the Adblocker open source community, Wladimir Palant (and his partner Till Faida), took outside investment and turned the project into a business called Eyeo last summer. Despite promises that they’re not “selling out,” they do admit that this new approach is part of an emerging business model:

Mr. Faida has left open the possibility that some big Web sites will pay his start-up as part of the new service; small sites will never be charged, he said. In an e-mail [to the New York Times], he wrote: “In the long term, we of course have to think about how to make our movement sustainable — including larger Web sites that will increase their revenues by partnering with us in the costs of maintaining the project seems to be a way that will work.”

I’ve never been a fan of Adblock Plus. We all love the free-ness of the web’s content, which means advertising is generally the sole source of income for the content creators. Consuming the content without the commercials feels, to me, kinda like stealing. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike advertising that’s annoying, deceptive or poorly crafted as much as anyone else. But indiscriminate ad-blocking punishes the good alongside the bad.

Adblock’s new system gives advertisers a path to redemption. Make better ads, they say, and we won’t turn you off. It’s an approach — like Google’s Adwords algorithm or Digg’s DiggAds product, both of which get more expensive for advertisers that are less popular with users — that reinforces what our brains (to some degree) do anyway, block out the bad ads. Why build technology that will bankrupt free media, when instead you can give users tools to ignore, and/or direct their hostility at, only the lame advertisers? With the latter scheme you may end up with better ads and better-funded free content at the same time.

Facebook v Google

The irony, of course, is that Facebook and Google both are in a constant struggle to respect users’ privacy while mining as much personal information as possible for the companies’ advertisers. All that social information we plug into Facebook when we “like” a pair of shoes on Zappos or update our status about future wedding plans helps the company serve us up ads for things we’re more likely to want. This has made Facebook into the go-to advertising platform for big marketers hoping to do brand advertising at scale on the web. As a result, even though Facebook’s revenue is minuscule compared with Google’s, it is growing at a much faster rate. It is expected to surge to $4.3 billion this year, or more than double the $2 billion it had last year, according to eMarketer. In contrast, analysts predict that Google’s revenue will grow just 30%, to $38 billion.

From the November 21, 2011, issue of Fortune.