Google Gboard: A Whole New Ad Platform

Google Gboard: A Whole New Ad Platform

Just when you thought Google had all its bases covered, a brand new advertising avenue has popped up in Google Gboard.

Back in May, Google announced its new keyboard application for iPhone, Google Gboard. In case you haven’t heard about it yet, take a look at the video below.

In Canada, I had to wait until recently to install the app (much to my dismay, as the video had me itching to download it right away) and within minutes of using it, I recognized the enormous opportunity that (I assume) Google is attempting to capitalize on here: in-message advertising.

Some Background

SMS campaigns are not at all what I have in mind here; let me start by making that clear. Mobile campaigns have existed for some time, and they will continue to exist (and, of course, expand and evolve). But one area of our mobile existence that has been closed off for quite some time are our text messages (between friends). Sure, brands can leverage messaging services like SMS, Facebook Messenger, What’sApp and other services to communicate directly with customers and prospects, but sponsored content directly within our personal communications is something that (so far) is only available in certain apps (like Snapchat) and not in some of our most commonly used messaging software.

With Gboard, an entirely new opportunity has made itself available in what I would say is a very subtle (and, at least for me, welcome) way.

The Opportunity

Within minutes of using the keyboard, I rushed to my Settings on my iPhone and updated my default keyword for Google’s. Full disclosure, I much prefer Google software to Apple’s, but whether or not you prefer one product over another, there is no denying the superiority of Google Gboard over the standard iPhone keyboard.

As you saw in the video, there are plenty of fun integrations (plus a functional swipe as opposed to the disasters I’ve used with iPhone in the past) but what really caught my eye was the Google logo in the top left of the keyboard.

Google Gboard offers new ways to advertise

A friend sends you a message (in any messaging service, by the way, where the keyboard is set to the phone’s default) asking you to the movies. You enthusiastically respond, “Sure!” Then comes the difficult part: what movie, what time and what theater? This might sound like the pinnacle of Millennial struggles, but leaving the message to begin searching through your browser is a multi-step process that just got easier. Tapping the ‘G’ and either dictating, swiping or good ol’ fashioned typing out ‘movies playing near me tonight’ yields a series of results that can easily be clicked on and shared or viewed within the message. I know what you’re thinking: this is cool, but not the biggest deal in the world.

Actually, it is.

We spend a lot of time on our phones. Research from eMarketer has found that adults spend over 23 hours per week texting. In fact, since that research was conducted, the number has probably increased. Considering our heads are buried in some form of messaging for an aggregated one day per week, that is a day per week that ads, sponsored content or branded media is not being shown to consumers. As a consumer, I’m not complaining about that. As a marketer and advertiser, I want those hours.

With the ability to access the world’s premier information aggregator from within my text messages, some of those 23+ hours can now be monetized. I’m not suggesting immersive ads within our text messages. That’s going to turn a lot of (I would go so far as to say all) people off to the product. But to offer ad space within a highly coveted, engaging medium like messaging, where advertisers can bid for some of the most intent-driven searches that consumers will conduct, is a veritable goldmine for Google. When someone asks me where I want to go for dinner after seeing Matilda, and I click on the Google logo to search for ‘best post-show dinner near the Shubert Theatre in Manhattan’ that first card (and only displayed result in these searches, as cards display one at a time) can be a sponsored one.

Of course, there are plenty of other areas within Google Gboard that offer similar opportunities. Rich media is readily integrated into Gboard in the form of GIFs, images, emojis, etc. So when I say ‘opportunity’, I’m looking at it from the perspective of a grand, hugely popular medium that has yet to be tapped (at least not to its fullest).


Consumers are bombarded by ads and paid media everywhere they turn. Estimates suggest that we are exposed to ten times as much advertising today as we were exposed to in the 1970s. For this to work as a value-added to brands that does not anger consumers, it will need to be done elegantly and with a great deal of tact. This is a very personal space, and aggressive techniques simply won’t work. But there is clearly a world of potential here, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see some beta testing on these concepts in the near future.

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Corey Padveen is a data-oriented marketing professional with a focus on statistical analyses of human behavior. This specialization has led him to speak and present at dozens of conferences around the world, to write for a variety of reputable online and print publications, and recently, to publish ‘Marketing to Millennials For Dummies’ as part of the world-renowned ‘For Dummies’ series. He regularly shares real world examples and findings from his research, and discusses how members of society are evolving as consumers, communicators, and a global network as a whole.

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