Whether claiming territory, enforcing a cultural hegemony or creating propaganda – maps have always been about far more than basic geography. A truth that certainly applies to Google and their ubiquitous map service. Just like their search – Google Maps owns the keys to the valuable content and most of us, quite happily, use their gateway to get to the information we need.


They dominate desktop and mobile mapping (over a billion downloads for the mobile app) in much the same way they dominate search, except a search for your closest coffee shop in Google will contain ads, but a search within Maps will bring up the information but not the ads.


Till now.


If Google Maps sounds like the perfect place for an inclusive local search, one that brands can pay to be a part of, we’d agree. Which is why we were pretty happy to hear recently that Google are going to start rolling out a responsive in-app ad service for brands and consumers. By helping to increase visibility, they’ll be providing a vital digital link to physical locations of local retailers.


First ads started appearing in the sidebar while searching an area – and now ‘promoted pins’ actually on the map. While searching for a coffee shop in Google Maps (something I spend about ⅓ of my waking life doing), I’ll now be presented with ads at every one of my normal steps: search, map search and actually while I browse the map.


The change that will probably stand out the most however is the bespoke branding that the promoted pins will carry. Being able to pay to stamp a branded visual in such a trusted and popular space is something that lots of marketers, agencies and brands are going to look forward to taking advantage of. Then, once a user has decided to click a promoted pin, there are new look local pages that will allow the brand behind the pin to list in-store promotions and inventories.


Promoted Pins
This (suitably) organic step toward ads for Google is very exciting for the rest of us, as the effective marriage of digital and physical worlds represents something of a holy grail for 360 degree marketers. And, maybe because it feels as if it has taken us ages to get to this point; where bricks and mortar conversions can be driven seamlessly by technology, we can’t wait to start using it!


By Oliver Brown