Google seeking patents on digital sign network ad system

January 11, 2007 by Dave Haynes

Bill Gerba over at Wirespring has written in his blog here and there about where he thinks Google might be headed in our industry, but a different blog posted a piece today that pretty much ends speculation and shows the search engine behemoth is very serious about the business.

The stock market watch blog Seeking Alpha has a piece out entitled: Going Digital: Google Revolutionizes Billboard Ads

It notes Google has a patent application in on the following:

Allocating advertising space in a network of displays


Systems and methods for allocating space for advertisements in a network of electronic display devices are provided. Attribute information indicating retailer and categories of products available for purchase in the vicinity of a display device is maintained for each device in a database. Advertisers may upload advertisement messages to a server specifying information such as budget, price per impression, preferred billboards and/or other constraints. One or more keywords or other descriptors are specified for each advertisement message. The system then generates an advertising campaign specifying where the advertisement message is to be output and send the messages to the specified displays. The output may consist of various forms including video, audio, printed incentive, interactive data transfers and/or combinations of these.

The application was initiated in mid-2005 but was updated and active as recently as December. You can read the full patent application online.

I’d love to detail what this really means to the industry, but that would take an awful lot of analysis and talking to industry people. At first pass, I would say any company that has a locked down software package that requires ad scheduling to be done at a certain workstation should be a little worried by this. On the other hand, Web-based systems with APIs and lots of flexibility should easily line up with this Google system.

I think media planners (ad buyers) might be thinking they’re about to lose some business, though my experience is most of them are still in the teenager-like rolled eyes phase when it comes to hearing digital sign network pitches.

Where Google database driven-ad system really works is with little text ads correlated to search terms in a browser. I don’t know how the Ad-Words and Ad-Sense approach translates to creative, eye-catching ads on sign systems. I have this ugly vision of thousands of display screens in convenience stores and shops peppered with some nice national creative from major brands, but dominated by butt-ugly ads done up by local restaurants and businesses.

There also isn’t the audit trail in retail signage that click-throughs provide for advertisers online.

On the other hand, those networks that have been struggling mightily to generate local ad sales and stay afloat might find this sort of network helpful in at least generate ad sales with little or no effort. Anybody doing inside sales at one of these firms might have cause to be nervous somewhere down the line.

This will be VERY interesting to watch.

  1. […] mention all this because Google is sniffing around and exploring patents in our much smaller, but fast-growing space. I still wonder how an automated ad-buying system will […]

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