Google Patent For Ads That Follow You Surfaces
Imagine if after clicking on an ad, it expanded and then persisted as you navigated to additional web content linked to from the ad itself. That’s what’s laid out in a Google patent that recently popped up in the public records and has gone unnoticed. The patent, which dates back to 2003 with a continuation […]
Imagine if after clicking on an ad, it expanded and then persisted as you navigated to additional web content linked to from the ad itself.
That’s what’s laid out in a Google patent that recently popped up in the public records and has gone unnoticed. The patent, which dates back to 2003 with a continuation made in 2011 (US 8838479), is titled “System and method for enabling an advertisement to follow the user to additional web pages”.
In a vision for moving beyond “garish” banners, the patent outlines a system for delivering ads that enable “a user to obtain additional Internet-based content while still viewing the advertisement”.
The problem the patent aims to solve is: “The annoyance factor of ads today causes many people to not want to investigate what the ads are offering, even if they really offer something useful. Clearly, people are not happy with existing advertisements, such as graphical banners,” wrote the patent’s author, Ross Koningstein, one of the inventors of Google AdWords, and now Director Emeritus of engineering at Google.
Interestingly, the patent shows examples for these ads appearing on both search results and third-party content sites.
These days, rich media ads that transform are nothing new, but in this patent a standard text ad would be able to “morph” into an expanded format that gives users more information about the advertiser.
In the example below, a user searches for “wildlife tours” and is presented with two ads. A magnifying glass icon (110) appears on the second ad signifying that there is more information available.
The expanded version of the ad could then look something like this below with images, additional copy, a business listing and menu tabs (230, 240) for more information.
(On a side note: nothing is mentioned in the patent about the “Interest” bar that appears in the ad examples.)
This ad is depicted in both the search results setting shown here and in a content network setting.
From the patent: “Offering users expandable advertisements gives them the ability to safely investigate information about the advertiser and/or its products before going to the advertiser’s designated target location (e.g., its target web page).”
Linking To Additional Web Pages
The menu tabs are where the bonus comes in.
Advertisers would be able to designate related pages to display when a user clicked on a menu tab (or some other kind of navigation functionality). Clicking on a tab could bring up additional content in the existing browser window, trigger a new browser window to open, or activate pop-up windows with additional information, according to the patent. The ad remains persistent on the screen and “follows the user” as they navigate other web pages linked to from the menu tabs.
The link could bring up related search results, content from the site the ad displaying on, content from a different site entirely or map listings and weather information.
When I was first reading the patent, I assumed the additional web content would typically be from the advertiser’s own site. But instead, in both examples provided, the pages are for related content from the site or search engine the ad appears on.
In one example, a menu tab in the Wildland Tours ad below for “Logowear” (Fig. 7), triggers a page of pictures relevant to the advertised wild life tour – it’s a search results page of images related to what users might see on a tour displays.
While the patent does have a caveat for linking to other third-party sites, the idea of linking to the advertiser’s site isn’t explicitly mentioned. The emphasis is on linking to pages that are “hosted or affiliated with the content/advertisement system to again provide the feel of a safe confined experience for the user”. More from the patent:
“As people get used to such advertisements, it decreases their inhibitions to investigating advertising content, and increases the exposure of advertisement host’s information (if not their web sites)”
In another example, a menu-driven ad includes a link to view gear items for sale that are related to the advertiser’s suggested items for bringing on one of its tours.
Users can navigate around that page, and even make a purchase while the ad remains present. “Thus, the advertisement may record feedback from the user at the point of purchase to determine the effectiveness of the advertisement, etc.” Again, the odd thing here is that in the example, anyway, the items aren’t being purchased from the advertiser’s own site.
If the user wanted to return to the original content or search page, they could do so by clicking on the home icon (220 in the first image above) shown next to the menu tabs.
Advertisers could also potentially block out other ads. “Given the finite amount of space for such advertisements, advertisers may be given the opportunity to exclude other advertisements and thereby gain additional space for their particular advertisement by expanding to cover those advertisements”. In the display context, this isn’t particularly radical, but it certainly is in the context of search.
Will We See Ads That Follow Us?
Today, when video and rich media ads can be served quickly to any device, the banner is as threatened as ever. But this patent, in part, is a reminder of how far we’ve come since the days of swinging monkeys and blinking slot machines. Low click-through-rates on today’s ads are seen as a result of “banner blindness” as oppose to safety fears about what happens if we dare click. Let’s not forget that banners weren’t left behind as mobile has taken off.
And, that’s one thing that sticks out when reading this patent: there is no mention of mobile, not to mention mobile apps, even after the 2011 continuation. It’s interesting to try to re-imagine this format in today’s mobile environment. The patent does note that the ads wouldn’t necessarily have to morph for the ads to be able to link to other content, which could be more conducive to mobile screens.
So now that this has been made publicly available, will we soon see ads that follow us? Asked about the patent, a Google spokesperson said, “We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications.”
I have trouble seeing the value in either of the patent’s examples in terms of persuading users to click through on the tour company’s ad. I can’t envision this playing out in any way other than having those links go to the advertiser’s own site.
It would be pretty nifty to be able to book concert tickets, buy a new bag or submit a quote for car insurance without having to leave the article I was reading.
I could see the expandable text ad format itself working in a number of scenarios, particularly in local listings.
What do you think?