Google announced new search-side video and picture advertisements Tuesday, masquerading them as an improvement for users. It "makes sense to provide you with richer types of information in the ads," Google said in its official blog, calling the rich ads "a better search ads experience."
In actuality, Google's new ads don't have much to do with "you," unless you happen to be a potential advertiser. The new rich ads (seen below) are part of a wider effort at Google to attract more lucrative ad partnerships by refining their products. Since rich media ads generate much more revenue than textual ads, it's no wonder they're at the center of Google's strategy. The company has been experimenting with promoted videos, call-to-action overlays, and pre-roll ads, and has even partnered with TiVo in order to get access to data for the service's 1.58 million subscribers, which it will use to refine its television ad serving arm. (How much more effective are rich media ads? See the chart above, from a report by Google's DoubleClick division).
Should you feel cheated? Not really. Some have said the new rich ads will take up too much space at the margins of Google's pages, pushing their search results—the stuff you actually want to see—further down the page. But Google formats its pages over 1000 pixels wide, and may indeed go wider once rich media ads become more prevalent. Since most of us these days are surfing on machines with horizontal resolutions of over 1400 pixels, there's still room for Google to use more screen real estate. The site may even come to auto-detect screen resolution on a user's machine and only serve big ads if there's space available. In short, there are plenty of ways Google can make their new ads non-invasive.
According to data from Microsoft's Bing search engine, images in search actually seem to please users. "Looking at the consumer research, our analyses show that images on a traditional search results page are a big driver of consumer satisfaction, especially for task related queries like buying products, catching up on celebrity gossip, or planning a trip," says Microsoft on its Bing blog. Google's new ad formats are similar to Bing's visual search, which the company intends mainly for comparison shopping. (Below, a Google ad comparison shops for you.)
Whatever users come to think of Google's new rich ads, they're sure to proliferate. It's probably not long before we see more YouTube experiments make their way to other Google outlets. To see what Google's charging for these video ad units, click here. Below is DoubleClick's research on the efficacy of rich media ads.