Undeterred by so-so results from its first foray into print advertising, Google is launching a second, more ambitious effort to leverage its laser-targeted ad system into old-school media.
Google is focusing on the struggling newspaper market. Advertisers will work through the company's self-service system to upload creative and build media plans.
More than 50 newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as 100 advertisers, are participating in the test this month.
"We're trying to add a new dynamic to the print marketplace and bring new transactional efficiencies, targeting and accountability to that medium," said Tom Phillips, director of Google Print Ads.
Google Print Ads is the latest move by Google to move into traditional media. The search giant also recently acquired dMarc, a Web-based system for placing radio ads. The company plans to integrate dMarc into its AdWords platform by year's end. A push into TV advertising may also be on the horizon, per Google executives.
In traditional media markets, the company faces entrenched players leery of the power Google has accumulated.
To lure newspaper companies, Google is allowing them to refuse ad placements. In its magazine test last year, Google took an approach derived from its Web-ad network: The company bought and resold magazine space to its legions of advertisers, removing control over ads from the individual media properties.
Denise Warren, chief advertising officer at the Times, said such control is critical to publishers. The approach taken in the magazine test "wouldn't make sense for us," she said.
Google executives are taking such concerns seriously. "Those two media are very different," said Phillips, a former publisher at Spy Magazine. "The print medium is more publisher-directed and online is more user-directed."
Google's track record was strong enough to coax eHealth, an online provider of health insurance, back into newspapers, which it had abandoned several years ago owing to pricing and measurement issues. The client plans to target papers in a handful of markets and track spikes in Web traffic from those areas.
"It's going to allow us to better understand how print advertising drives Internet traffic," said Bruce Telkamp, svp, marketing at eHealth.
Another advertiser, e-commerce company eBags, is using Google Print Ads for product-offer segmentation. The client will advertise bags by Kathy Van Zeeland in Dallas, Houston and other markets where those items are big sellers. Simultaneously, it plans to tout high-end Tumi briefcases in New York, Boston and San Francisco. "In Boise, a $400 bag would be excessive," said Peter Cobb, eBags svp, marketing.
Newspaper executives are open to new advertising ideas, especially after their overall U.S. ad revenue dipped 3 percent in the first nine months, per TNS Media Intelligence.
Papers now hope Google will help them reach small advertisers their sales forces often overlook.
"What Google has that we don't is an efficient marketplace that reaches out to the long-tail marketer," said Warren.
Advertisers, however, will have to be satisfied with a less clear picture of their effectiveness, using Web analytics to track site visits from regions running the newspaper ads.
"It's going to be mechanically a lot harder because you're talking about an analog world," said Josh Stylman, managing partner of Reprise Media, a New York search-marketing agency. "You're stripping out a lot of the value you have in the interactive" realm, where each click-through is counted, he said.