Google Makes Brand Ad Push

NEW YORK Google said it plans to run graphical ads, priced on an impression basis, across its AdSense network of thousands of Web sites, marking the search giant’s most aggressive move yet to court brand advertisers.

The test program allows advertisers to target their ads to groups of sites or specific sites in Google’s ad network, rather than by keyword. Advertisers set a maximum cost-per-thousand impressions price, instead of the cost-per-click method used for text listings on its search and content networks. Google said it would operate a single auction to determine which ad to show based on the effective CPM. Publishers can opt out of the system, but otherwise the graphical ads will appear if they yield a higher effective CPM than the click-priced text ads. Advertisers will only pay the minimum CPM needed to run an ad on a site.

Google said the program would allow AdWords advertisers more tools to target consumers in the consideration and awareness phases, in addition to closer to the purchase phase.

“Our advertisers have asked us to cover more of the buying cycle,” said Tim Armstrong, Google’s vice president of ad sales.

The site-targeted ads will include animated and static ad formats. Advertisers can manage the ads from their Google AdWords account. Advertisers can create what is in effect their own ad network by entering the Internet address for a site or themes and topics of sites where they would like to advertise. In both instances, Google creates a list of suggested sites along with a maximum number of impressions for each site. Advertisers can then choose the sites that run their ads. Google will editorially review ads for appropriateness. It is offering four formats: banners, skyscrapers, wide skyscrapers and leaderboards. Google will accept animated and static ads.

Google introduced click-priced graphical ads to its content network last May, yet Armstrong admitted advertiser and publisher response, in most verticals, has been tepid. “We think with the new pricing format, it should expand,” he said.

Armstrong said AdSense publishers, even premier partners, would not worry about channel conflict, since site-targeted ads would open them up to a whole new set of advertisers and make sure their ad inventory gets the price it deserves. “It allows them to do better yield management,” he said.