Google Sightseeing Targets Target, The Satellite Advertising Phenom Begins

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Fans of Google Sightseeing, the site that takes you on a tour of the world through the eyes of Google Earth and Google Maps will agree that the site is popular for many reasons, most of which center around its motto “Why bother seeing the world for real?” and the humor inherent in many of its tours.

Back in August of 2005, the site did a tour of Target stores which feature the huge Target symbol on their rooftops. You can read that original tour by clicking here. Turns out, Target accidentally started a trend. The stores in question had the logo painted on their rooftops as part of a visual campaign targeting (haha) overflights coming into nearby airports. Pictured here is the Target in Queens, NY, which looks like a bad day at the range.

The mention of the stores on Google Sightseeing set of a short-lived blitz as various media and news outlets noted the accidental advertising potential that Target was seeing thanks to Google Earth and Maps.

This set off a lot of buzz as marketers began seeing the potential. Soon, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Maxim Magazine got in on the deal. Both companies went to Nevada and created giant versions of themselves in the desert.

A giant Colonel Sanders was painted off the Extraterrestrial Highway in Rachel, Nevada. Made up of 65,000 one foot square painted tiles, the whole montage came together like pixels on a screen. They used 6,000 red, 14,000 white, 5,000 beige and 12,000 eggshell colors as well as 28,000 black tiles.

Maxim Magazine, at about the same time, created a 8,250 square foot magazine cover in the dessert outside of Las Vegas to celebrate their 100th issue. Needless to say, it was hot out there in the desert.

Of course, no one can forget the Giant iPod from Space prank played in 2006.

All of this sparked a flurry of advertising forms based on using Google Maps. In 2006, ad campaigns involving satellite mapping began appearing everywhere. Mapvertising, Satvertising, Roofvertising, and interactive online advertising games like Scavengeroogle and others were everywhere.

Many of these died off very quickly. Often the long lag time between putting up an advertisement to be seen from Google satellites and when it was actually mapped by them meant several months (or longer) would pass before the campaign could get underway. The inability to know when, exactly, the photo might be taken also caused logistical problems.

Of all of the Google Maps advertising schemes hatched out during the 2006/2007 years, few have stuck around. The popular game of geocaching, where participants use GPS units to find “caches” of stuff and trade for new stuff then update a website, did see some popularity profit from the Google Maps craze, however. Most know that you can enter GPS coordinates directly into a Google Maps search and it will go to that location. Insertable Javascripts can be used to extract GPS coordinates as well.

Companies occasionally use geocaching to promote their products. Most recently, Ford is included some urban geocaching in its ongoing social media campaign for the Ford Focus.

The only straight advertising that seems to have kept any traction, though, is realty advertising via Google Maps. To have a real estate sales site that doesn’t integrate Google Maps or Mapquest is to be stuck in the 1990s. Most realtors link to maps to the property, at the very least, and many include satellite photos of the property in question as well. Some of the more sophisticated even offer Google Maps tours of some of their offerings.

With all of that, the little tour of Target stores at Google Sightseeing seems to have set off a new spin on advertising online. Perhaps, with the new rise of social networking online, a resurgence of advertising via Google Maps is forthcoming.

Can you imagine the scale of a massive rivalry should Vegas casinos square off like this or Sam’s Club and Costco? It could be fun to watch.

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