New ads in Google Maps might suggest a pit stop at McDonalds

Promoted pins bring advertisers' logos into navigation, trip planning and map searches

Later this year, Google Maps users will start seeing new ads as they're driving down the road and planning trips using its mobile app.

The company announced a new promoted pins feature on Tuesday that will show users special pins on the map with a brand's logo in different situations, like when they're planning trips, driving by and searching for places to go. For example, when someone searches for "coffee," they might see a pin with a Starbucks logo show up on their map, while another user might have Maps suggest that they stop by a McDonalds while following directions.

Alongside that, advertisers will be able to set up pages that let users explore what items they have on hand and view special offers.

These changes mean that Google should be able to make more money from Maps, and advertisers will be able to try and reach users at times when they're most likely to go and visit a physical location. It's part of a push from the company's advertising division to create more ads targeting smartphone users.

Previously, Google only showed ads inside Google Maps that were basically copies of traditional search ads, and they weren't able to specifically target the company's mapping software.

Jerry Dischler, Google's vice president of product management for AdWords, said that the company is still honing its first release of promoted pins. In general, Google is trying to optimize for two things: making sure people see the ads, and not distracting folks as they're trying to operate a car.

That's why even though the Maps app will show promoted pins as users are driving, Google isn't going to call them out in the middle of navigation. However, Google also doesn't have any plans to make it possible to turn them off.

With the launch of these products, Google is building on the tools it has to try and get users to visit physical businesses from the web. Tuesday’s launch comes almost two years after Google released AdWords store visits, a tool that uses anonymized location information from customers to tell businesses how many people visited retail locations after seeing their ads online.

In some ways, these ads are similar to ones run by Waze, the mapping and navigation app that Google bought in 2013. Right now, the Waze team continues to operate independently of Google Maps, and the ads users see in Waze are separate from the ones in Maps.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google's senior vice president of ads and commerce, said that would continue for the near future, but that at some point, Waze and Google Maps will integrate their advertising products.

All of this comes as Google has also announced a number of other changes to its advertising products, including a redesign of AdWords that lets marketers bid differently to reach users on mobile, desktop and tablet devices.

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Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
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