New Google Map Ads Stir Controversy

Google recently added bubble ads to select Google Maps locations. The choice to create new ad space has caused controversy, with some business owners concerned about the potential for reputation warfare and poorly targeted ads.

The New Ad Space

The ads on Google Maps were reported Laura Alisanne earlier this month. Alissan noted that ads were now appearing on local business listings, below the place location in the standard info bubble.

According to Mike Blumenthal, Google may have been planning for this a lot longer. Blumenthal states he’d heard in “early September of Adword Account Reps instructing large Adword clients to take out ads in Google Maps in anticipation of this rollout.”

While clearly denoted as ads, the ad exposure in the Maps info bubble raises two distinct concerns. First, that ads may cause undue trouble for locations on Google Maps. Second, that the ads themselves will be poorly and even inappropriately targeted.

Concerns with the Chaos Raised in Ad Space Expansion

It’s fairly normal for any company to seek new opportunities for monetization, and Google is far from excluded. However, the introduction of ads in the info bubble have the potential to cause some peculiar issues.

For one, it’s now possible to advertise directly against a competitor’s physical location, or even pitch a philosophical viewpoint that contradicts your own. Blumenthal tracked down this somewhat amusing example of a gay rights advocacy appearing on the NYC diocese of the Catholic church:


Further, some businesses may have to place ads defensively to prevent showing off a competitor.

Blumenthal took up the war march, saying that the likely increase to bid cost, the unwanted exposure for competitors, and the disrespect for locations that should be given some freedom from commercialism – churches and memorials, for instance – all constituted a shameless act on Google’s part.

The Issue of Poor Targeting

Alongside the potential chaos raised in the new ad space itself, Google faces an additional challenge: targeting ads correctly. While the search query for the Maps search will be useful, and the context of the location itself points to a general direction, Google lacks the contextual data that makes display ads effective.

Even if Google targets the ads correctly in many cases, the lack of details allows competitors to more easily showcase ads (as mentioned above) and decreases the ad’s effectiveness for advertisers. At least in this regard, this seems like a situation where nobody wins.

Do you think Google can accurately target Map ads? Do you think it’s fair of them to place ads in this new location? Do advertisers, consumers, or locations get a benefit? What’s the appropriate solution? Give us your thoughts in the comments, below.

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