I have been curious about the recent Goog-411′s recent billboard campaign and the unusual distribution of the billboards. The boards have been reported in very limited geographic areas around San Francisco and Western New York with showings in settings both very rural and very urban. The ValleyWag had speculated that the billboard experiment was a test for a billboard ad distribution system. That seemed unlikely.
Bill Slawski’s recent article: Second Thoughts on a GPhone: Privacy and Targeted Ads offers specifics on a Google patent that allows for much more interesting speculation about the role of the Goog-411 billboards and Goog-411 itself.
Bill details a patent the describes the collection of caller data that would allow for delivery of targeted mobile ads:
Numbers dialed might be used to look up related information, such as:
- Geographic locations of the called numbers
- Names of persons called
- Names of businesses called
- Names of organizations called
- Types of business called
- Types of organizations called
The above are all things that Goog-411 can and probably does track. He goes on to describe how the patent envisions that this information could be expanded to develop a profile for business types, product types that a caller was looking for as well as a caller profile that inferred ethnicity, economic class, interests and likes. The system could even track post call connection data:
As an example of using such key presses, instead of simply noting that the user called a local theater, by analyzing the voice prompts (which might have been previously crawled (e.g., a list of numbers of voice message systems could be called and crawled by entering numbers) and analyzed (e.g., using speech recognition for example)) and responsive key press responses, it might be learned that the user was interested in a specific movie (â€Finding Nemoâ€ versus â€œThe Matrixâ€), not just that they called a movie theater.
This could result in ads being served related to that specific movie, or based on the genre of the movie (e.g., childrenâ€™s movies versus action and science fiction movies).
Such a system may require a device that would call dialed numbers (that were followed with further dialed digits), and utilizing speech recognition technology, learn which terms were associated with each of the possible choices.(bold is mine as this is just what Goog-411 does)
Which brings us back to some questions about Goog-411 and its ad campaign:
â€¢Why roll out Goog-411 for free?
â€¢Why have such a limited roll out of billboards?
â€¢Why are these billboards in Limestone, Olean, Buffalo, NY & Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, Ca.?
â€¢When will it be monetized and how?
Bill’s patent offers several interesting clues to these questions. For ad delivery on both the ever mythic gPhone and Goog-411 to really work, it needs both volume and relevancy. Relevancy can best be achieved by sampling a broad spectrum of users, users that come from a broad range of geographic, ethnic and economic status.
The billboards certainly are distributed in a way that data collected from responses to the ad would reflect many purchaser architypes and interests that Google seems to be looking for in their patent.
What better way to develop this data for the gPhone (or any mobile ad delivery system) than using Goog-411?