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Published: Monday, 5/26/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago


Google wants to place ads on your car, thermostat

Plan is to move beyond desktops, cell phones


NEW YORK — Science fiction got a few things right.

Our home appliances are becoming intelligent, drones are flying through the skies, and cars are starting to drive themselves. But they can’t fly — yet.

But it seems science fiction thinkers may have missed one big and possibly frightening (or annoying) prediction: that these devices would be another place for advertising.

According to a December letter sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which became public last week, Google hopes to put ads “on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.”

How would this work? Imagine that it’s a cold winter day. The snow starts floating down, a wind kicks up, and you go to your thermostat to turn up the heat. In Google’s world, that action could be met with an advertisement on your thermostat for a new wool sweater.

Google said in its SEC filing that this plan to advertise in places beyond the desktop and cell phones came about partly because the company expects people to be using several different kinds of Google services and products in the near future. If that is the case, which it probably is, the company said its advertising would be able to follow customers between those experiences.

Google hopes to offer advertisers a new feature called “Enhanced Campaigns,” which are advertisements that can be aimed at people across several kinds of devices or experiences, including cell phones, cars, or thermostats.

“Enhanced Campaigns allows our advertisers to write one ad campaign, which we serve dynamically to the right user at the right time on whatever device makes the most sense,” Google wrote in the filing. “Because users will increasingly view ads and make purchase decisions on and across multiple devices, our view of revenue is similarly device-agnostic.”

But Tony Fadell, the founder of Nest, the thermostat company that was acquired by Google, cited a Google statement on Twitter noting that new advertisements would not be included in the specific Nest thermostat. Nest, he wrote, does not have an ads-based model and has never had any such plans.

“We’ve contacted the SEC to clarify our 2013 filing, it does not reflect Google’s product roadmap,” he wrote.

While this might sound like dollar signs for Google, it could be a bit frustrating to the company’s users. As much as I want my car to drive me to work in the morning, I don’t want it trying to sell me everything we see along the route. “Hey, Nick, should we stop for an Egg McMuffin?”

But that [driverless] ship may already have sailed.

In its letter to the SEC, Google said it was disclosing this information because the company expected that multidevice ad campaigns could deliver meaningful levels of new revenue in the future.

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