Google slathers search ads in Facebook sauce

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Google is making its ads interactive with a “+1” button that will basically allow users to “like” ads and recommend them to their friends.

It's a somewhat belated effort to muscle in on the word of mouth marketing magic that has lately made Facebook and other social media sites a mint. Better late than never, though, and don't worry, regulatory folks – the button will not affect ad text.

It will be added to all ads on Google over the next few weeks and will be made available to website owners through Google's Webmaster Central site.

“When you have lots of options in front of you, it's easy to find yourself wishing for a bit of advice,” chirps an explanatory video put out by Google. “That's why we're introducing the +1, a way for you and your friends to help each other find great things in Google Search.”

Advertisers will soon be able to see how many +1s their ads are getting through the search company's AdWords program.

“It shows that, like everything else, search is getting more social,” said Larry Mickelberg, chief digital officer at Havas Worldwide Health. ”For marketers, it's more of the same value story -- if what your brand offers online is easy to find, use, and understand, and if you offer value, you are more likely to be consumed, shared, liked, or ‘plussed'.”

Novo Nordisk director of professional relationship management Craig DeLarge said the button was an improvement, though not necessarily a transformative one. "We will see," said DeLarge. "Because +1 will only be as good as the ones who recommend, there will still be room for skepticism, but the crowd sourced nature of it will certainly show some consensus of healthcare info sources to create a sort of short list one will then have to sort through, which is an improvement over a long list."

Fabio Gratton, chief innovation officer at Ignite Health, said the question for pharmas is whether anyone wants to interact with their brands in that way.

"The implications for healthcare marketers are complex in that users will eventually be able to +1 branded pharmaceutical sites, thereby advocating the site to their peers and even make paid ads social," said Gratton. "But all this begs the question of whether or not physicians, patients, or their caregivers want to self-identify with a branded drug or treatment option in this way. Only time will tell if +1 is a success and pharma can actually benefit from more finely targeted ads and integration within personal profiles—and if additional regulatory challenges eventually become evident with the personalization of branded content in this manner."

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