Google recently made an announcement that raised some eyebrows. In a move that seems more like something Facebook would pull, the search giant said it will begin using the faces and names of users of its social networking arm, Google+, in advertisements. In an effort to create more personal and relevant ads, Google+ will display the faces of your friends in ads for products they may have endorsed or shown interest in by leaving positive feedback for that product or service. The campaign, announced two weeks ago, will begin on Nov. 11, and is the result of altered terms of service for Google+ users.
According to CNN, these “adver-dorsements” might pop up not only on regular Google searches, but on any of the two million sites that are part of the Google ad network.
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Not everyone is happy with the change. Marketing guru Seth Godin recent blogged that this is evidence that the Mountain Valley, California-based search giant has “jumped the shark,” a pop cultural reference to the end of the “Happy Days” television series in which fans knew the show had run its course when the Fonzie character improbably jumped over a shark while waterskiing. Godin notes that people expressing themselves online are increasingly finding themselves starring in ads as unpaid and unwilling endorsers.
“Public companies almost inevitably seek to grow profits faster than expected, which means beyond the organic growth that comes from doing what made them great in the first place,” writes Godin. “In order to gain that profit, it's typical to hire people and reward them for measuring and increasing profits, even at the expense of what the company originally set out to do.”
Godin notes that there comes a point in every company’s existence where it starts switching from offering services designed to add real value for customers and users to making unwise, short-term moves simply to please shareholders. It’s the second category he places the “adver-dorsements” move into. When companies start focusing on the interests of shareholders over customers, he says, that company has reached critical mass and is on the downswing from innovation.
You can, of course, opt out of the shared endorsement programs. By visiting this settings page for Google+ accounts called Shared Endorsements, you can uncheck the box next to "Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads."
Edited by Alisen Downey