Google’s Ad Scan: Stupidity, Madness or Mere Insanity?

The blog Silicon Valley Insider has an extraordinary item today about Google’s latest ad scheme, which works this way:

1. Advertiser buys ad in newspaper; a Google barcode appears on the ad

2. For reasons unrevealed and hard to imagine, a newspaper reader wants so badly to have the ad on her mobile phone that she takes a snapshot of the barcode with her device (she has previously installed special software to permit this)

3. Her mobile phone takes her directly to an online version of the ad–which presumably has more value in mobile, digital form than it does in its mobile, analog print version. Maybe it’s more information, or a chance to sign up for, oh, I don’t know, an e-mail newsletter or a sweepstakes (which is to say an e-mail newsletter)

4. The newspaper advertiser can now capture data about that potential customer which is uncaptureable in a print environment

5. Google sends the cell phone user an e-mail message, which she is invited to print out and attach to her forehead with duct tape. The e-mail says “I Am Verry Stupid.”

Actually, I made up No. 5.

I know, I know, they do this printed-bar-code-and-cell-phone thing in Japan. But in Japan they also watch those game shows where people hilariously incur significant internal organ damage by competing in contests involving mud, spinning platforms and immovable objects. “I Am Verry Stupid” indeed.

Business Rule No. 1: If you want to get consumers to do something that benefits you (like give you money, or merely identify yourself as a reader of an ad so someone else gives you money), you have to offer them something of value in return. This “value proposition” seems to be missing in this Google scheme.

Please, right now, close your eyes. Try to imagine seeing an ad in the newspaper so utterly compelling that you’re willing to stop whatever you’re doing, take out your cell phone, and view another version of that ad–maybe an interactive one, just like on the web!–in the tiny screen of your cell phone.

I know, I can’t either.

I prefer to view a money scheme this spectacularly wrong-headed as another hopeful sign that Google has entered its Late Empire phase, when the emperors drink arsenic at orgies while the lean and crafty barbarians consolidate control of the provinces and plan the ultimate pillage.

Or maybe (alas) it’s just another sign that Google has so much money now it can make big bets on slim chances and put nothing more at risk than a quarterly earnings rounding error.

In any case, if you know anyone who works on this particular project at Google, please send them the following message as an e-mail and ask them to tape it to their foreheads.


Explore posts in the same categories: advertising, Google

2 Comments on “Google’s Ad Scan: Stupidity, Madness or Mere Insanity?”

  1. shiny Says:

    This is reminiscent of the stillborn CueCat, a mouse-like device that would enable readers to link to web pages without entering a URL by scanning bar codes in print ads. A multimillion-dollar flop perpetrated by, among others, the Belo newspaper chain.

  2. Terrance Says:

    Every weekend i used to go to see this web page, for the reason that i want
    enjoyment, as this this website conations genuinely good funny data

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