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Google Brings Its Shopping Ads to YouTube

Google's latest counterattack against Amazon: Shopping ads inside YouTube.


Here comes the next chapter in Google’s e-commerce foray: Video.

Google is gradually revealing more on its shopping ads and Amazon competitor — the box of paid listings that appears atop search queries for consumer goods. In the coming weeks, Google will introduce a “Buy” button capability into these ads on mobile phones. And now, it’s letting advertisers place the ads on YouTube.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s SVP for ads and commerce, will introduce the new feature at an ads conference in San Francisco on Thursday. The function arrives inside TrueView ads, the clips before the main video, introduced in 2010, that viewers can skip (letting advertisers off the hook for payment).

Here’s how it works: You’re searching for a quiche recipe, say, and find a how-to video. But first, an ad for a quiche pan plays. A few seconds into the ad, a small panel appears inviting users to shop. Once that’s clicked, a sidebar of product images with prices drops down, which viewers can scroll through, and — voila! — there’s a link to a site to buy that pan. It works on both desktop and mobile.

Google is stressing that this does not allow for purchasing directly within YouTube. Instead, like its imminent “Buy” button, Google sends users outbound to the retailers’ websites. Rather than the merchant, Google is the connective tissue.

For some industries, it may be a tough line to swallow, since Google has recently been bounding into other industries, like travel and insurance, by placing services directly inside search.

The new feature is also part of Google’s recent two-pronged focus on mobile, where it has evident weaknesses, and the purchase intent in commerce. That latter is one area where Google has an edge over Facebook; people usually don’t go to Facebook to find a good quiche pan. They do go to Amazon, though. And Google’s plan to rival the e-commerce behemoth has failed to take off, suffering from the recent departures of two key executives.

Unlike Amazon, Google does have the world’s largest video site at its disposal. To ad spenders, Ramaswamy will tout the new YouTube product ads as a way to reach Web browsers at the most opportune time: Right when they’re thinking of buying. Google, borrowing a fashionable term in marketing lingo, calls them “micro moments.”

In October, at Code/Mobile, YouTube revealed that over half of its views come on a mobile device. Last month, it published research that claimed mobile viewers are indeed more fond of ads than viewers elsewhere.

As with most of its ad products, Google shares scant details on TrueView. In its last earnings, outgoing CFO Patrick Pichette said they were rising in popularity, calling them “a significant driver” of annual growth in ad clicks. But each video click brings less to Google than clicks on search ads, weighing its overall rate down.

Nonetheless, on Thursday, Ramaswamy will share a couple of new stats on YouTube: More than one million channels are now devoted to product reviews, and their viewership climbed 50 percent year over year.

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