Google recently launched self-serve market research ad units (the aptly titled, Google Consumer Surveys), and now they're being spotted in the wild – most recently via a reputable industry trade pub: Adweek.
When I first encountered the ad unit on an article, I didn't even register that it was a survey, or that I was being asked to do something. I just assumed that the blurry, grey content below was a glitch – or that there was no more story to read.
But as I hopped to another story about Xbox LIVE ads, I became curious (and slightly annoyed), so I took the time to read the question. Oh ... it's a survey! Simple enough to answer, semi-relevant and then I'd get to the content I wanted. No longer annoyed. Inspired, actually, because it's a brilliant idea.
As Mashable's Jennifer Van Grove notes, this is a win-win-win for publishers, advertisers and readers. And for B2B and niche content publishers, especially, I think Google Consumer Surveys could evolve into a useful addition to the roster of monetization tools.
The Paywall You Pay for with Attention
Google's Consumer Surveys are sort of like creating a paywall for non-subscribers. For example, I don't plan to subscribe to Adweek (and that's not an aside to the publication, just a nod to the reality that I prefer to consume my work-related content online, and not in print). But I'm also well aware of the fact that ads make it so that I can consume the majority of my digital content without having to subscribe.
So for most publications, I try to glance at the ads – and at the very least, I let the interstitial or video ad run for the 12 or 15-seconds it takes for them to get an "impression" before I get to the content. Yes, it's annoying and no, I'm not often paying attention to the ad itself, but it's the trade-off I make to help my favorite publishers stay in business.
Still, judging from most reports, digital ad sales – be they display, online video or even sponsorships – aren't quite keeping publishers' coffers full. Google's Consumer Survey ads won't completely solve the problem, but they're a step in the right direction because they're a distinct, engaging call to action. The survey took all of five seconds, the question was semi-relevant to me, and it got me to my goal: Reading the content I wanted.
Google isn't collecting any personally identifiable info (PII) from me via the survey, but longer term, publications like Adweek may be able to aggregate and anonymize the survey data to better quantify the value of their audiences for advertisers. That means charging higher CPMs and/or CPCs in the long run. And as you can see below, Google's Consumer Survey ads also work in conjunction with existing third-party ad formats:
Adweek is still running standard banner ads, as well as the meebo bar at the bottom, and if the company is using a yield optimization service, then it's already getting the most bang for the buck with both of those placements. The Google Consumer Survey ad helps Adweek better qualify its reader base and boost engagement. It's like icing on the cake ... the paywall that's not a paywall. And frankly, I have no problem paying with my attention in a more upfront, interactive way.
On the other hand, Google Consumer Surveys could contribute to survey fatigue for some readers. I personally have received emailed requests to complete surveys for three different companies in the past 48 hours – they're all focused on customer service, they're all asking for varying degrees of interaction, but the key component is that none of the brands are offering me anything in exchange.
Wyndham Hotels wants to know how my recent stay in SF was. Common practice, but they could easily offer me a few reward points for completion.
PayPal wants to know how my phone conversation about updating a credit card for my account went. And Gogo, the inflight WiFi provider, wants some insight – although I haven't used Gogo Inflight for a few months. I'm not saying that these three companies are obligated give me something in exchange for my time and attention ... well, actually, maybe I am.
In the case of PayPal, it's a simple customer service survey – they want to know how well their employee served me via phone. I can understand, that there's no need for an incentive there. But Wyndham and Gogo – I've already paid for your services. Why not offer me a discount on the next stay (or WiFi purchase), or even ... some free content from a publication I might like for the day?
In this attention/engagement/conversation-powered economy, I understand that you're trying to "listen" to me with these surveys. But if you want my eyeballs, my clicks and my opinions as a decision-maker, a thinker, an influencer and a qualified lead, then you should be ready to give me something in exchange for it. And that's what Google is doing with its Google Consumer Survey ads. Win-win-win for all parties involved.