Google Inc said on Tuesday it is testing a new interactive service that lets advertisers measure users' responses in advanced ways using video or images on Google's vast base of affiliated Web sites.
The top provider of Web searching has been testing Google Gadget Ads, as the new service is known, as a way to deliver eye-catching ads that have the dynamism of television but also the Web interactivity that lets users choose what they see.
Some analysts and early advertisers who have tested the ads with consumers said the capacity to measure the effectiveness of so-called rich media advertising is a technology breakthrough for the industry that bolsters Google's push into the corporate brand market.
"Gadget Ads is very far reaching," said Andrew Frank, an online advertising analyst with market research firm Gartner Inc. "This is the platform that Google is going to build all their cross-media advertising services upon," he said.
The new advertising service is designed for broad adoption across Google sites, including iGoogle personalized home pages that tens of millions of consumers use for searching and to be notified of updated information on the Web at large. The new format works across Google's network of hundreds of thousands of affiliated sites and can be embedded in YouTube videos.
Rivals like Yahoo Inc and Microsoft Corp and a host of ad start-ups offer various twists that help brand advertisers serve up rich media ads such as video, but they lack the breadth of what Google is offering, Frank said.
Gadget Ads can incorporate instantly updating data feeds, images, video and even miniature, fully functioning Web sites in a single advertising unit, using the latest mouthful of Web publishing technology terms, including Flash and AJAX.
Gadget Ads will allow advertisers to count not just whether the user clicked on a particular ad but how much consumers engage with the features of a particular ad, said Christian Oestlien, a business product manager for Google Gadget Ads.
With Google's help, advertisers can measure user behaviors like how much of a video ad was watched, whether it was viewed more than once, if a user fast-forwarded or rewound the video, and whether the menu or other controls were used.
"It is unparalleled on the web today," Oestlien said.
The underlying technical platform lets advertisers combine different types of Web services from Google and elsewhere on the Web. Beyond delivering the ad itself, Google can also encourage customer feedback or handle on-the-spot transactions within the ad, using Google Checkout or PayPal, for example.
In another case, an automobile advertiser could combine a video advertisement for its cars with links to Google Maps, live traffic updates and a preliminary customer sign-up form.
Preliminary testers include PepsiCo Inc's Sierra Mist, Intel Corp, Honda Motor Co, Six Flags and Viacom Inc's Paramount Vantage.
Bladimiar Norman, head of interactive marketing at Paramount Vantage, the independent film arm of Paramount Studios, said Google Gadget Ads allows him to create interactive ads for upcoming films that fans can copy and feature on their own sites, extending the ad's audience reach.
Because Gadget Ads work across both Google owned properties, Google-affiliated Web sites and non-Google sites such as social networks, Norman said he can reach a far wider audience with a single creative effort.
Instead of standard "click to play" video ads, "I am able to do things that are a little more challenging," said Norman, who promotes films like "The Kite Rider" and "Into the Wild."
Separately, Google has hired Andy Berndt, co-president of the New York office of Ogilvy & Mather, a unit of WPP Group Plc, in a move that could prove controversial among ad agencies, who fear Google may increasingly compete with them.
Berndt will be joining Google later this year as the managing director of the Google Creative Lab, which develops Google's own advertising for business and consumer markets and works with other creative agencies in developing advertising using Google advertising services.