Google Exploits First World Students!

We’ve been hearing for quite some time about the coming online gold rush driven by local advertising. Borrell Associates, for example, forecasts local online advertising to grow by 48% in 2008. For projections like these to prove true, however, those local advertisers need some encouragement. According to this story in the Wall Street Journal, newspapers seem to be doing an especially poor job of it. An awful lot of small businesses have discovered the value of online advertising, particularly paid search, but a lot more haven’t. It’s the second group that can use the encouragement, but the thought of visiting all of those small advertisers to make a personal pitch is daunting. As a result, as the WSJ article notes, most newspapers initially “focused on selling ads to bigger advertisers who were already buying space in their print products.” Now, facing the possibility of losing the local advertising market to national internet companies, newspapers are scrambling to figure out how to sell the local guys on online ads.

gomc_icon_small.jpgMeanwhile Google, in position to be the king of local advertising through its AdWords, AdSense, and mapping products, has also been thinking about how to reach more local advertisers. They’ve come up with a nifty plan called “The Google Online Marketing Challenge.”

Student teams will receive US$200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords and then work with local businesses to devise effective online marketing campaigns. You will outline a strategy, run your campaign, assess your results and provide the business with recommendations to further develop their online marketing. Teams submit their reports and are judged by a panel of independent academics from all over the world.

You have to admire this marketing program run under the guise of educational service to our nation’s youth. The teams, from Azerbaijan State Economic University to the University of California, Irvine, will fan out all over the globe running online ad campaigns for local advertisers using Google AdWords. Google gives up some AdWords revenue in return, they hope, for student and business owner converts to the power of online advertising.

The winning team will get “a chance to visit the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California, and meet the team that created AdWords.” I think I’d rather meet the team that came up with this contest.

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