If you use popular direction services like Waze, in between trying to figure out how to get the Stephen Colbert voice back, you’ve probably noticed by now that franchises like Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonald’s have their logos over their physical locations. Some can ignore it, some find it annoying, but get used to it, because the biggest name in the mapping game is about to embrace it.
Google Maps is likely one of Google’s most popular services, and Google, the world’s biggest advertising agency, is never one to let an ad sale slip past it. So, to start with, it will let brands “buy” some virtual real estate so you can just follow the giant Starbucks logo to your caffeine supplier, and when you search for, say, a drugstore in your area and pick a result, an ad will be fit in underneath. So far, Maps’ verbal directions will be free of ads, but Google has tellingly refused to rule that out as a future possibility. Thankfully, advertisers collecting your location doesn’t appear to be on the table.
This isn’t just for the cash, although that certainly was a factor. Google has found that more and more search traffic comes from mobile devices, and is usually related to something the person tapping at that phone is doing at the time. So for Google’s ads to continue to be relevant, they need to be tied to what you’re doing, and Maps is the clearest conduit to that. Still, Google should consider making these ads context-sensitive; there are some things we Google that we really don’t want directions for.