Google Wants to Give You a Free Ride

Google Scratch

Google published a patent last week — although they filed for it in 2011 — for a type of ad that offers you a free or discounted ride to the business that’s being advertised to you. It’ll be a big deal if this really does start showing up in banners and popups.

According to Google’s patent drawing, “transportation-aware physical advertising conversions,” will show up on your Apple Newton (left) and on a parking garage ticket kiosk (right). Or maybe the drawings just aren’t very sophisticated and the ads will show up on your phone.


Just because they’ve patented it, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Google just likes patents. Their sale of Motorola earlier this week highlights the new reality of patents in the tech world. They let go of Motorola’s hardware, its manufacturing facilities, and the brand itself, but they kept the patents, and $2.9 billion is all a hardware giant like Motorola is apparently worth without them. This is after Google paid $12.4 billion for Motorola in 2012. For reference Snapchat, turned down a $3 billion buyout offer.

But this pie-in-the-sky idea could move forward, according to Gregory Roekens, Chief of tech at the British ad agency AMV BBDO. He told the BBC, “This is trying to turn advertising into a utility and remove barriers for consumers.” He then took his argument in a weird direction, “So if people can use this time more productively and interactively while in the vehicle, there’s another opportunity for advertisers.” I think he was probably just feeling the pressure of being on TV when he gave that soundbyte. It doesn’t really follow that ad companies will pay for you to be in a limo so that you can be on your phone looking at more ads, but nice try.

Google Frictionless

More likely, the idea is part of this growing trend toward making everything “frictionless,” meaning all barriers are removed. Amazon one-click purchasing is the ultimate in “frictionless shopping.” The share button at the bottom of this blog entry is medium in its frictionlessness; you click it once, then click again on the Twitter bird, then a little window will show up with the text already filled in for you, so you have to click a third time to share this article (I’ll wait). The point is, driving to the store is now “friction,” in the eyes of Google. They’d like to do away with it, and when the potential customer is willing to part with enough money to offset the cost of the ride, it becomes worth it.

Mariella Moon of Engadget says this new “VIP” feature in Google’s ads is for “high-profile customers likely to spend more.” She could be right. After all, Google can follow your social media habits, and probably your bedroom and bathroom habits, so why wouldn’t they know whether you’re an HNWI? Perhaps in Moon’s vision of the future, promoters can use this feature to deliver high profile clubgoers to clubs if they’re likely to pay for bottle service. Plebs will have to settle, I suppose, for discounted Lyft rides.


via Flickr user MetroAtlantaMarketing

Still, we 99 percenters make large purchases from time to time. A free ride to the local galleria when its time to get a new laptop would be mighty enticing, while a discounted ride would be less likely to get me off the couch. It seems as though Google simply has to present a value proposition to advertisers: “Likelihood of purchase increases by X. Your investment in the customer’s transportation is Y.” Google is already excellent at presenting your advertising ROI in an easy-to-understand way.

Of course Google knowing how far you are from a retailer, and arranging for a possibly driverless vehicle to show up and whisk you away to a point of purchase is it’s own brand of next-level creepiness. But that’s another article entirely.

Mike Pearl is a news contributor for VICEGristDeathandtaxesmag and others. He takes public transportation and the vegetarian option when possible.


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