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Digital West

Google to Add +1 Social Layer to Display Ads

A New Form of Targeting Social Connections

By Published on .

Google has made its +1 button ubiquitous on web sites and search results. Now, Google is using the +1 to add a social layer to display advertising.

Starting in October, ads distributed on Google's Display Ad Network will have a +1 button, allowing consumers to "like" an ad and share that endorsement to people they're connected to via Google's social network Google +.

Adding a +1 to the ads.

It's an extension of what Google started doing earlier this year when it added the +1 button to search results and search ads, allowing users to endorse those ads, and showing that endorsement and photo to their connections.

"It takes all the great learnings since we added +1 to search ads and it applies them to the display network," said Christian Oestlien, group product manager for social advertising at Google, who announced the move at Ad Age 's Digital West conference in San Francisco today. "We think that this is going to do a great deal to drive better results for advertisers, more interesting, relevant ads to users, and more revenue for publishers from higher click-through rates."

Since Google added the plus -one to search results, people have become accustomed to seeing photos of their connections in search. Now they will see photos of their friends on display ads themselves. When the ad loads, images of people who have endorsed the ad will appear at the bottom of the frame and then fade away in ten seconds.

Google's social ads will compete for bids on Google's ad exchange. Google will allow consumers, advertisers and publishers to opt-out of social ads, which will be controlled by a separate "social" cookie on the DoubleClick ad server.

Social data is a new frontier for marketers, but one that carries inherent privacy concerns. More than 700 million people are connecting to friends on Facebook around the globe; in countries like the U.S., the U.K., Turkey and France, more than half of Facebook users have become a fan of at least one brand, according to new research from DDB Paris and OpinionWay.

When a user "likes" a brand on Facebook, that "like" can be converted to a display ad shown to the person's friends as what Facebook calls a "Sponsored Story."

Google's social ads will spread this notion further across the web, and no doubt bring new attention to the kind of ad targeting that takes place with or without consumers' knowledge. "Adding +1 options to ad tagging adds a layer of targeting to that may prove effective over the short term in the same way that Facebook Sponsored Stories have proven effective, but I doubt most people have a clear understanding of what they are doing," said Kevin Ryan, president of Motivity Marketing.

Social connections can be powerful indicators of brand preference or intent to buy a product or service. Startups like Media6Degrees are mining anonymous social connections to target ads. Google's short experience with endorsed search results were instructive.

"What we have seen is personalized recommendations are a great source of relevance -- we have been able to measure that through impact and click through rates," Mr. Oestlien said.

Google+ brand pages
Google+ brand pages

In addition, Mr. Oestlien said Google is about to open up its social network widely to brands, which will be permitted to create profiles and circles just like any individual user of the social network. Marketers will be able to use "circles" to segment their users and create different marketing messages.

Until now, marketers like Ford and GM have maintained test Google+ profiles. Other businesses will be offered the chance to create profiles in the coming weeks.

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