You've probably seen the digital billboards that are steadily replacing the traditional kind on the side of the road or in public spaces. Billboard operators and advertisers love them because they can cycle multiple ads and add new ones without sending guys up to paper over the old one.
Of course, it was only a matter of time before Google, owner of the Web's largest advertiser network called DoubleClick, wanted in on the action. Right now, it's conducting a trial by serving ads to several digital billboards in London. What does that look like?
The good news is that Google's plain text ads are staying on the Web. It's only showing ads designed to work at the larger size and format. It's also going to be showing ads based on what is happening at the moment.
For example, if it's rush-hour traffic and raining, a billboard will show different ads vs. when it's mid-day and sunny. The billboards can even show automated weather alerts, sports scores and whatever else it judges to be useful to the people walking by at the moment.
At the moment, Google is just trying to get the hang of integrating its technology with billboard technology, and figuring out how traditional billboard metrics (credits) equate to online metrics (impressions). That involves a number of companies working together, so it's going to take a little while to get everything smoothed out.
If it does work out, however, the end benefit for companies is that they can handle all their ads in one place. Most companies already use DoubleClick for their websites and managing online ads. If they can use the same system for billboards and other signage, then it's a serious time and money-saver.
Of course, it's also another step toward targeted ads that follow you literally everywhere you go. That won't be for quite a while, but it's probably not as far off as you'd hope. If you don't like it now, learn how you can stop ad tracking and interest-based ads.
Do you think this is a good step, or should Google stay out of this kind of advertising? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.