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Google Program to Distribute Marketing Widgets via Ad Network September 19, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Google’s announcement of a beta version of a program that will distribute marketing widgets through its AdWords network is a fascinating twist on widgets. Marketers will be able to use Google’s widgets API — Google calls them “gadgets” just to be contrary — to create interactive rich media ads that Google will serve up contextually on the sites of publishers in its ad network. It’s a “twist” because these ads — which will match standard ad formats — really will be widgets. That is, they’ll be highly interactive and embed-able.

However, marketers who want to enable embedding on anything other than an iGoogle page — say, for instance on sites like MySpace or Facebook, where people actually use widgets — will have to do a lot of coding themselves. Google’s not supplying code or templates or building that into the API. It should fix that. Half the fun of widgets is getting your brand advocates to pass them along or embed them on a page their friends see. And marketers will have to figure out how to clue in users, via the ad widget’s creative, that the ads actually are widgets, or they won’t get embedded anywhere…

That said, as a distribution vehicle, AdWords reaches a lot farther, is more target-able, and bears no Facebook whiff of “walled garden”. Google is building in basic interaction tracking tools, which might be table stakes in rich media ad-serving but isn’t widespread in the widget marketing world. Of course, as an industry, we haven’t figured out engagement metrics or benchmarks yet. Stay tuned for a series of reports from Jupiter on that topic.

Finally, Google’s program raises a ton of questions about how marketers should bid on and evaluate widget placement vs banners vs video vs other rich media formats, all of which will be mingled within the same marketplace, at least for now. But media planners are going to have to figure that out themselves, one way or another.

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