Google's ad products will start to look a little more like Facebook's next month.
Beginning in October, the search and ads giant will affix +1 buttons to ads in its behemoth Google Display Network. Mobile and desktop ad units across the network will carry the +1 badge, which is the Google equivalent of Facebook's "Like" button. Importantly, small footnotes at the bottom of each ad will show how many others have "+1'd" it. In cases where an individual's Google+ friend has +1'd an ad, the ad will reflect that and possibly show the friend's Google profile image.
The rollout marks the first time Google has added social endorsements to its ad products, a practice Facebook has been experimenting with since 2007. Nielsen-Facebook research last year found ads with "social context" significantly improve ad recall and engagement.
Google agrees and will prioritize display ads with a social component. "Because a recommendation from a friend is such a strong signal of relevance, the Google Display Network gives ads that have been recommended an extra boost by including them in the auction for any page a friend visits," wrote Eider Oliveira, senior software engineer, in a blog post.
For example, let's say Claire's high school pal (and Google+ connection) Doris has +1'd a landing page on Arm & Hammer's website, one featuring the brand's laundry soap. Weeks later, when Claire is served an ad for the product, she will likely see that Doris has expressed her affection for it.
A social endorsement will be served regardless of whether a consumer has +1'd an ad, content page, or search result. "A single +1 applies to the same content across the web, no matter where it appears," Oliveira added.
Advertisers can expect to see the button in a range of ad formats, including image, animated GIF, Flash, and mobile ads. They are also compatible with DoubleClick rich media ads, whether they are served on or off the Google Display Network. Advertisers who don't want +1 data attached to their ads are permitted to opt out of the +1 program at the campaign level.
According to Google, the +1 button has been embraced by more than 1 million websites, and enjoys 4 billion-plus impressions daily.
In research conducted last year on Facebook's behalf, Nielsen reported people who have seen an ad with social context are 68 percent more likely to remember it, and twice as likely to recall its content, compared with ads that have no Likes. And it found purchase intent was four times higher when Facebook users were exposed to ads with social advocacy.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
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