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Malls Should Make Ready For Google Billboards

Doug Caverly
Staff Writer
Published: 2007-01-18

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Google is a very powerful Internet company, but it's still, for the most part, just an Internet company; consumers aren't very likely to encounter the search engine and advertising giant unless they're near a computer. That may change, though, given some recent patents that relate to digital billboard technology.

Google's patent application initially mentions a system of "advertisements in a network of electronic display devices." But if that seems vague, things become clearer about 1,000 words into the piece.

While describing the (potential) product, the application states, "One example of this are kiosk-type billboards typically located in retail outlets, such as shopping malls, airports, hotel lobbies, etc. In their simplest form these devices loop through a series of poster-type advertisements promoting, movies, products and/or retail outlets in proximity to the sign to induce specific customer behavior."

Of course, filing for a patent doesn't in any way commit Google to creating billboards. But ClickZ's Ryan Naraines, who was among the first to note these goings-on, interpreted the patent filings as "a strong hint that the company is planning to expand expansion beyond Web, print and radio advertising."

A figure provided by Greg Sterling gives another powerful motivator for Google to move into the billboard business. "Outdoor advertising in the US is a roughly $6.2 billion dollar industry," he wrote.

Sterling also suggested that "[t]his patent filing is part of a larger strategy to be a 'one-stop' service or platform or agency (if you will) for all forms of on and offline advertising," which brings to mind Google's deal with 50 major newspapers.

These clues - and the patent application is a pretty big one - make it seem likely that Google billboards will, in the relatively near future, be coming to a shopping mall near you.

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