Stray Thoughts on Billboard Campaign for Google Apps

We’ve seen an abundance of reports on Google’s billboard advertising campaign for Google Apps, the company’s web-based enterprise productivity suite.

Drivers on San Francisco’s Highway 101, New York’s West Side Highway, Chicago’s Eisenhower Expressway, and Boston’s Massachusetts Turnpike will presumably see Google’s billboards while stuck in mind-deadening traffic. The advertisements will change daily during weekdays for the entire month of August.

It’s all part of Google’s mounting bid to wrest revenue-bearing enterprise accounts away from Microsoft — and, to a lesser extent, IBM — for applications such as email, word processing, spreadsheets, calendaring, and the like.

The vast majority of Google Apps subscribers tend to choose the free, advertising-driven version, and Google would like to derive new sources of revenue from products and services unrelated to search-based advertising. Besides, very few enterprise IT departments, and the executives that hire the personnel in those departments, would be keen on having advertising appearing alongside and within the personal-productivity applications used by their employees.

Advertising issues aside, Google has a mountain to climb in convincing CIOs that Google Apps is ready for their patronage. As Larry Dignan of ZDNet notes, Google will need to comprehensively address valid enterprise concerns regarding security, privacy, and compliance before it can make substantive inroads against Microsoft.

That might take a while, irrespective of whether the simple but stark billboard advertisements draw the eyes and attention of commuters.

On a mildly digressive note, I wonder which billboard company captured the Google account. You’d think it would be worth some useful PR. Then again, perhaps I missed something (that happens from time to time) and Google now owns its billboards.

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