Google tries out interactive ad format

Company says news ads intended to hold users' attention longer

Google is testing a new interactive ad format to give advertisers new ways to reach users online.

Google Gadget Ads, which are being tested by a small, select group of Google AdWords advertisers, are being expanded to include more advertisers, according to Google. The company is hoping the new service will lead to people viewing more ads online. Google said Gadget Ads will allow advertisers to interact with users in new ways and hold users' attention for longer time periods than regular ads. Advertisers will also be able to see how many users interact with the ads, as well as how they interacted with the ads, Google said.

Gadget Ads are small software applications, or widgets, that combine real-time data feeds, images and video with traditional advertising content, according to the statement. They can be developed using Flash, HTML or both, Google said. The ads look like small Web pages within a Web page, and users can also embed them into their blogs or iGoogle home pages. Gadget ads are built on an open system, so anyone can set up and run ads on the Google content network, Google said.

Google posted several examples of the Gadget ads on its Web site. An ad for the Six Flags theme park includes a simple game and a link to "add to your Google home page."

The Six Flags ad delivered 94.5 million impressions to 17.1 million unique users, and users interacted with the ad about 200,000 times, Google said. About 0.3 percent of those exposed to the gadget ads interact with them, Google said. In comparison, direct mail generates a response rate of 2.18 percent, according to 2006 figures from the Direct Marketing Association.

The gadget ads run on Google's AdSense advertising network and are priced by the number of clicks or number of impressions. It's unclear when this testing phase will end. However, Google said the ads will ultimately be available in 20 languages and 100 countries.

"The introduction of this new advertising format provides advertisers and agencies worldwide with an imaginative, dynamic way to interact with consumers," said Susan Wojcicki, Google's vice president of product management, in the statement.

James Niccolai of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.

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Linda Rosencrance

Computerworld

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