Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google Makes Its Own Social Ads, With a Twist

Advertisers can plug anything they want on Facebook and Twitter for free. And if they pay up, they can take those posts and transform them into “native” ads, so more people can see them.

Now Google is trying the same thing with its Google+ social network.

The big twist: The Google+ posts that brands turn into ads won’t be “native” ads, because they won’t run on Google+, which doesn’t allow (formal) ads. Instead, the ads will run around the Web, on sites that use Google’s massive ad network.

Google is calling these “+Post” ads, and has been testing them out with a few advertisers. I have yet to see one in the wild, though Google is suggesting that will change soon.

But based on Google’s description of +Post ads, and a video it’s using to advertise its ads (see below), it seems like an odd approach. Since the ads aren’t going to run on Google+, why go through the effort of making them seem like “real” Google+ posts?

The ads are supposedly more interactive than traditional display ads, because if you “engage” with them by hovering your cursor over them for a couple seconds, you can leave comments on them, or do other Googley things, like joining a hangout.

Google also makes the provocative argument that it makes more sense to run “social” ads outside of the social networks where they were constructed, because that way you can show the ads to people when it actually makes sense.

That is, Google says it will give Toyota a chance to show its +Post ads to Web surfers who are checking out auto sites, instead of sandwiching the ad between pictures of your co-workers’s kid and a cat meme photo.

Maybe! And since we’re basically inured to conventional display ads, it never hurts for advertisers to try new techniques.

On the other hand, since Google+ is a social network that offers its users … lots of elbow room, no matter how many people Google insists are using the network, maybe there’s a different logic behind the ads.

Maybe Google is using them to advertise Google+.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle