Google is replacing some of its boring text-only search ads on mobile phones with flashy, gorgeously produced photo versions — likely for a price.
"Text ads are informative, but there's not much emotion there," says Bhanu Narasimhan, the product management director at Google AdWords.
The eye-catching, overhauled visual ads, which are now available for cars like the Dodge Challenger, allow you to flip through photos, research product information and book reservations directly from the search screen—a major departure from the text ads that fade into the general noise of search results.
Hotel and car dealership ads will also get a makeover with the options to book reservations, get directions and dial up a business.
The difference is striking between the bland text ads and Google's new seductive, sharp photo ads. The new auto ads are aimed at creating a "showroom experience," says Google's Narasimhan. A mobile search for "Dodge Challenger," for instance, now yields an ad with images of the car inside and out and links to local dealers, specs and pricing at the top of the list of results.
For car buyers closer to making a purchase, the search giant is offering franchise auto dealerships better location-based ads with a click-to-call button and directions to stores. A beta version of the ad is available this week.
Brands that choose not to pay for the revamped auto ads can stick with the conventional text-only listings. While Google's mobile search results already pulls click-to-call phone numbers, directions and sometimes images for many business or product searches, the updates will give companies more means to alter the user experience of their search results than ever before.
The changes are rooted in marketing data that shows that people now do much more of their browsing on mobile devices and tend to spend less time on each page.
In 2015, eMarketer estimates that U.S. search ad spending on mobile devices will reach $12.85 billion, outpacing desktop ads.
In only two years, mobile search ad spending may cannibalize desktop ad spending, jumping to $21.73 billion compared to just $9.12 billion for desktops.
Google said the portion of web activity that comes from mobile has risen 20% in the past year and it's seen an 18% drop in time spent per visit in the same time.
These stats, along with other collected data, have led the company to conclude that consumers no longer need to spend long stretches of time at a desktop or laptop researching products. Instead, most shopping and browsing takes places in spurts on mobile devices — brief windows of intent that Google calls "micro-moments."
"We think of [micro-moments] as the figurative battleground where today's consumers are being won over," said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google's senior vice president of ads and commerce.
Google wants to home in on the increasingly short periods of time shoppers spend finding, learning about and buying products with instant-gratification ads that require as little effort as possible on the consumer's part.
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