Google Patent Filing Hints at Digital Billboard Ad Network

If patent filings are anything to go by, contextual advertising powered by Google will start appearing on digital billboards in a shopping mall near you.

The Mountain View, Calif. search marketing giant has filed a patent application for technology that lets local stores tie their stock control computers to a Google-powered ad network, a strong hint that the company is planning to expand expansion beyond Web, print and radio advertising.

The patent, filed December 21, 2006 with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), covers systems and methods for allocating advertising space in a “network of electronic display devices.”

The idea is to tie billboard advertising in local malls to actual products for sale nearby, much like the company’s flagship Google AdWords/AdSense network that handles contextual advertising on the Internet.
The patent filing, first reported by New Scientist magazine, describes a way for retailers to put categories of products up for purchase in the vicinity of a display device.

“Advertisers may upload advertisement messages to a server specifying information such as budget, price per impression, preferred billboards and/or other constraints. One or more keywords or other descriptors are specified for each advertisement message,” according to the USPTO filing (which can be viewed online here).

Google said the system would then generate an advertising campaign specifying where on the display devices the advertisement message will appear. “The output may consist of various forms, including video, audio, printed incentive, interactive data transfers and/or combinations of these,” the company said in the filing.

If the filing is a sign of things to come from Google, kiosk-type billboards, ATM machines and other digital displays in malls and hotel lobbies could start hawking products directly from a nearby retailer’s inventory.
Nowadays, advertising in these screens are limited to looped, poster-type advertisements of movie promotions and other nearby events but, in Google’s eye, the ads could be pulled directly from a merchant’s stock control system.

In the patent application, Google explained that its technology could remove the burden of manually loading looped ads, instead letting merchants create campaigns from available goods and services. The ads can be displayed in rotation and shut off automatically when a product is sold out.
Once the product is restocked, the advertisement can be re-added to the display cycle.