How Google Might Enable Property Owner Advertising in Streetviews Images

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Imagine Ads in Streetviews Images

Imagine that you are the owner of the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in Manhattan, New York, and you have a marquee banner that lets passerbys know what performances are currently taking place on your stage, as well as posters advertising coming attractions. How helpful might streetviews Images with Ads in them be?

Google has captured images of your theatre for Google Maps StreetViews, and have included many images that you may have uploaded via Google’s Local Business Center, or that others have taken of the area around the theater.

An image from Google’s Streetview of the theatre shows at least four billboard posters on the front wall of the building, which viewers can see.

a Google Streetview image of the Eugene O'Neill theatre showing posters advertising coming shows.

The chances are that the posters may be outdated. Imagine being able to update them as the owner of the theatre. Or to sell those spots to advertisers?

Google has also added the ability for business owners to add images to their local business listings that can display a Streetviews image display of a business location, such as the following:

a Google Streetview image of the Eugene O'Neill theatre showing posters advertising coming shows.

People other than a business owner can add images of a business to Google, but consider that some of those images may be old and may contain some dated information. As cold as it is today, I’m ready for a springtime production of anything, even a broadway “Spring Awakening” show like the one shown on the marquee above.

Imagine a site owner being able to update parts of images, such as marquees. I would imagine that they would only be able to change their images, rather than one’s submitted by someone else, as the above image seems to be.

Or imagine a property owner allowing others to bid upon adding images, or adding messages in posters or banners that might appear in an image in Google’s Streetview images.

A patent filing from Google describes a way for Google to let property owners claim their properties in Streetview, to make changes to streetview scenes and associated images, and to allow people to bid to advertise on those pictures.

The Streetviews Images Ad patent is:

Claiming Real Estate in Panoramic or 3D Mapping Environments for Advertising
Invented by Ryan Hickman
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20100004995
Published January 7, 2010
Filed July 7, 2008


Techniques for identifying groups of features in an online geographic view of real property and replacing and/or augmenting the groups of features with advertisement information are described.

The techniques include:

  • Providing a geographic view of a property within an online property management system,
  • Identifying a region of interest in the geographic view,
  • Analyzing the geographic view to locate one or more promotional features within the geographic view positioned upon a real property region,
  • Providing a user-selectable link associated with the region of interest in the geographic view,
  • Receiving a request for the region of interest in the geographic view via the user-selectable link,
  • Receiving data to alter at least one of the behavior or the appearance of the region of interest,
  • Storing the data in association with the geographic view, and;
  • Updating the region of interest within the geographic view based upon the received data.

Streetview has been one of my favorite parts of Google Maps because it allows you to take a look at places that you might consider visiting in person. It also seems to be an important part of the mobile Google Maps Navigation, since as Google tells us on their Google Maps Navigation page, the application “…automatically switches to Street View as you approach your destination.”

While the patent filing describes how such an advertising system might work with Google Streetview, it also provides some nice images that capture how that advertising process might work. Rather than summarizing the process, I’m going to provide a number of those images.

From one of the first images, it appears that this process would work through the Google Local Business section of Google. They show us the interface that a business owner uses to add their business to Google, or update information about their business and location:

Google Local Business Center business owner interface.

An example image in the patent filing shows many possible places that advertising might be shown on an image:

Example of available advertising spots on an image that might be found in Streetview

An auction interface screen allows a business owner to elect to have people bid upon advertisements upon images of their property, including the chance to select categories of advertisers and to deny some other categories:

An auction interface a property owner might use to let others know that advertising spots are available on Streetview images.

The patent application images also include an example advertisement upload interface that advertisers can use to submit their ads, including selections of categories and geographic/location information for those ads.

An interface that could be used to upload Streetview advertisements.

Finally, an advertisement placement bidding screen enables advertisers to bid upon where their ads might appear, including the locations and images that they might be shown at:

An interface that could be used to enter bids for advertising on Streetview images.


While this Streetviews advertising process hasn’t been put into place by Google, it may be something they might launch. Streetview looks like it has become an important part of Google Maps Navigation, and Google has invested a fair amount of money and effort into its Streetview project.

If the opportunity became available, would you advertise in Streetview? Would you allow others to advertise on your property?

Keep in mind that property owners could also update their information within StreetView under the process described in this patent filing. So, for instance, if you were the owner of the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, you could make sure that the image of your theatre appearing in Streetview showed the name of the current production being performed on your stage.

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56 thoughts on “How Google Might Enable Property Owner Advertising in Streetviews Images”

  1. Definitely interesting. I know you have been able to add images in the local business center for a long time. But it seems there might be more potential in this method for a greater reach. Its amazing how many sources of income Google must have.

    Nice find.

  2. wow- this is my first time I came across this website and ‘holy moly’ it has a lot of good blogs to read. I really like this one.. but; charging for advertising? What if they don’t want to pay for it? Are they going to drive by and ask them to take down the image so they can take a picture?

    seems weird..

  3. Interesting idea, indeed. Seeing how much Google invested in street view, we might even see this sort of ads in the future. But then again, do really enough people go to street view, to attract advertisers? I don’t think so. But for the owners updating the images with up to date data, that seems more realistic.

  4. What about billboards too? These could be updated with more recent film releases/products etc., but could get complicated depending on who owns each one, and as Marko says, it would depend on how many people use it, and also, maybe it’d be better on the web page than the street view itself. I guess it would be more useful for things like theatres as you say, or landmarks, which would get more views.

  5. That’s a great idea for Google…

    Bill – do you have any idea how many people are actually looking at the street view on Google maps? I’m curious as to how often this is used, it could actually be way more effective than we know. I wonder how often people use Google Street View when they find a new business and use the picture they see to decide whether or not to visit said business…

  6. Hi Arcnerva,

    Thanks. I do like the way that Google is now allowing people to toggle back and forth between those images and streetviews, and how the images are displayed on Google Place Pages. CNET just reported on another way that people might advertise through Streetviews in the future, based upon a presentation given in Europe a few months ago. See:

    Google muses about ads in Street View

  7. Hi Joseph,

    The process described in the patent filing allows for property owners to decide whether or not they want to show advertisments on their properties, as those appear in streetviews, and if they do, to allow others to bid for those opportunities. I don’t believe that Google would force anyone to advertise through this approach.

  8. Hi Marko,

    I guess it might depend upon how popular streetviews becomes, especially since it seems to be an important part of Google Maps Navigator – which could potentially be a very popular application on Android phones.

    I do like the ability for property owners to update the images shown for their business locations, too. I think that is a feature that people should take advantage of if they can.

  9. Hi Warren,

    Billboards might be included as well. The following line in the patent filing tells us that they could be part of this process:

    In some implementations, in addition to businesses, locations can include any type of property, such as parks, statues, public squares, billboards, etc. A property owner can be associated with any number of properties.

  10. Hi Buzzlord,

    I think it’s a pretty good idea, too. Though I wonder how much control Google and the property owners might have over the ads that might be displayed on properties. Hopefully some editorial guidelines will come into play.

    I don’t have any data on how popular Streetviews is at the moment. It is something included in the Google Maps Navigation application used with Android phones, and it switches over to a streetviews view automatically when someone using it gets close to their destination. I’m not sure how many people are using that application right now, but it could potentially become a large number.

    We do know that Google has invested a large amount of money and time into mapping out streetviews, and using mapping data for Google Maps. In addition to creating streetviews for roads, they are also creating streetviews for pedestrians of areas that automobiles can’t reach.

  11. If you think about the possibilities of combining both Streeview with future mobile applications and the extended reach Google now has with the android phone… it is simply amazing! Video streaming with GEO location and possible 3D renderings providing security, public service, amber alerts, traffic routing, accident reporting, 3D mapping and previewing of destinations like restaurants… The options and combination of future applications are limitless. Combine these service offerings with google’s core business of contextual advertising and what a new and exciting set of possibilities for the company.

  12. Hi Bill,

    Interesting topic! The possibilities are quite diverse here. The one thing that immediately came to my mind (since I’m in the process right now) is Real Estate sales. This kind of maps/streetview/images/calendar/etc. integration could be a game changer in the real estate market. Can you imagine the $50 or $200 or $1000+ listing G could offer a seller looking for a less expensive alternative to hiring a RE Agent? Something like this could put agents out of business and give FSBO a whole new (and competitive) meaning. I know I would use it as a buyer and seller in a heartbeat if it existed.



  13. I know that Google is making moves into the real estate search field, and Google Maps has already been well established among RE professionals as an aid in search. It would be interesting to see if this application would be carried over to residential properties. (I know in AdWords that real estate terms can make for an expensive PPC campaign). I could see Street Views giving the photos from the Realtor, and then mortgage firms, home inspectors, appraisers, and so on wanting ad space on those photos.

    A concern comes to mind about these images. I have been told that in Texas, there is a law that images of a property belong to the property owner, and that said images cannot be used without their permission. Generally, this law is never enforced, unless some other legal issue comes into play. Let us say that the theater rents the building, which is quite common for tax reasons, and that they are having a disagreement with the property owner. I wonder if Google would find itself in the middle with the owner and the business with such images. Basically, I see that this application could run into legal issues, but those might be slight.

  14. This sounds like a great idea apart from the fact that it is Google; dont they own enough of the internet already? Your patent sketches are great and informative.

  15. i dont agree with the texas laws , remember that the photos google use are sent by the users

  16. Great post Bill!

    This is remarkable! Although is does make sense, this might be going a little to far for me. Unless the number of views for the street map view is on a huge rise. Then I can see this being a advertisers market.

    Frank gives a good point on the real estate market.. I like that concept, I believe that would be good as well.

    Great content Bill, this is the first I’ve heard about this. Keep up the good value.

    Jason Braud

  17. The other day I was reading a novel in which the first scene had two detectives traveling during a storm in Portland Oregon on a street named Crestview.

    I went to Google maps as a test, and asked for the street view.

    The street is a very short one. But, within 30 seconds I was looking at a very recent photo of Crestview, a photo that I could interact with, thus getting a very good idea of what the detectives were actually looking at.

    I called my family over. To me, this was a miracle.

    Not only do I think this kind of service can help real estate, but save a lot of travel when it comes to planning of all kinds.

    I wish I had been born a little later.

    I will be leaving the planet at a time when man is doing things that were not only difficult when I was born, but would have been considered miracles.

  18. Hi Phoenix Mobile SEO,

    Thanks. Those are great points. There are an incredible amount of possibilities at the intersection of online mapping and mobile – I imagine that we’re going to see many that even surprise us. It’s definitely an area where innovation can take place.

  19. Hi Tim,

    Thank you. Right now, one of the pages on Google about Streetviews suggests a possible business use for the program, to allow real estate agents and brokers to show off properties using streetviews, and provides a link to the Maps API page, suggesting that they use streetviews images on their web sites. One thing I like about streetviews regarding real estate, is that it gives potential buyers a chance to take a look at the area around a home before they visit in person. Not to mention Google’s foray into providing real estate listing on Google Maps:

  20. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your kind words. I’m all for competition – I’d love to see some of the other mapping sites and search engines take on Google in providing services like streetviews.

  21. Hi Frank,

    A couple of very interesting points – thanks for raising them.

    The patent describes the “property owner” as the one who can allow others to bid on advertisements. Is the property owner the one who leases a building, or the one who provides a lease? Will Google include residential properties, considering that they try to focus upon listing businesses and organizations in Google Maps? Google is showing real estate listings for residential properties – would they allow those owners to offer ads on those?

    A dispute between a business renting a building and the property owner regarding the display of ads might be something that could be included in a contract, but I would suspect that if the renter had the right to display signs on the building, then the renter might be the one with a better right to offer ads – however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see courts getting involved.

  22. Hi andrei,

    It’s hard to say how those Texas laws might come into play. For people who are taking pictures of buildings from public spaces, I’m not sure how much control those laws might have over posting those pictures in a public place, including in Google Maps.

    Where there might be some dispute is when the images of those buildings are used in a commercial manner. For instance, If I start using a picture of a well known building in an advertisement – and I’m not the owner of that building, there might be an issue.

  23. Hi Jason,

    It’s hard to say how popular streetviews might become, but with it as an important part of Google Maps Navigation, and we are seeing new uses for streetviews such as Google’s real estate listings searches. I expect we will see additional applications and approaches in the future. Thanks.

  24. Hi Beth,

    Thanks for sharing your experience – I really like using Streetviews before I visit some place for the first time – so I have a good idea of where I’m going. It’s really cut down on my getting “lost” the last 500 feet or so before I reach my destination, struggling with finding numbers on buildings.

  25. this is quite like property hijacking. I wonder if they’d dare sell the ad panel of JC Decaux or Viacom…
    It is a good idea, but when i use street view, i struggle to navigate and thus do not pay attention to the ads.

  26. Hi yvonh,

    The advertising aspects of this patent aim at having the property owners decide whether or not they want to allow others to bid on advertising. so I’m not sure that we should consider that as property hijacking.

    The patent filing does mention the possibility of placing advertising on billboards, and I would have to assume that it would be the billboard owner who would auction spaces off on billboards.

    There’s also a mention of the possibility of advertising in parks, on statues, and in public squares, but doesn’t provide much in the way of details on how those would be handled.

  27. hey bill

    thanks for the intriguing post. I work in real estate – commercial sector
    and I’m wondering what your views are on this next Google step affecting the current real estate problems? do you think it could boost the office and executive suite market in any way.

  28. Hi Mainostoimisto,

    For some reason, your question started me wondering about Advertising in Second Life.

    Google Maps doesn’t really provide much information about private residences right now, but that’s an interesting question. Once Google has more control over the yellow pages, do they start on the white pages?

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  30. Hi Patrick,

    You’re welcome.

    It’s interesting that Google has decided to get more involved in real estate, and provide a real estate search in Google Maps. There are also some rumors floating around that they might target some online real estate businesses such as Trulia as acquisition targets, though I don’t know how much credence to give those rumors.

    Could it have an impact on the real estate market, both residential and commercial, if they do? I would suspect that making it easier for people to find properties to purchase could have an impact, though there are a number of other factors that determine whether or not there is a demand that it doesn’t address.

  31. Judging from the first photo, they can even put ads on the cements if the city allows it. It has a very clear picture of what’s happening outside of the theater. I don’t know how Yelp can compete with Google.


  32. Hi Kai,

    There is a lot of room for ads in those images, but I’m guessing that they might try to limit the amount of ads that they show. Too many ads might keep people from using Streetviews. πŸ™‚

  33. Bill,

    I agree! I also think that the ads are not too clear as I can see a lot of glare. As a Google Maps user myself, I think the review section is the most important to me. The streetview image is just to give me an idea of what the building looks like just in case I drove past it!


  34. Hi Kai,

    I’ve always thought of Streetviews as an aid to help me recognize a location once I arrive there as well, but I’ve gone on a few virtual tours of an area to see what it’s like in the past in Streetviews. I’m not sure what kind of impact ads in streetviews might have, but it’s an interesting idea. I wonder how many people use Google Maps to decide between businesses, taking into account things like reviews, rather than to locate those businesses nearby.

  35. Bill,

    I would have to say little to none if it is the user’s very first experience with Google Maps. When I used it to locate the business that I was looking for, THEN I realized there was a review section. Now, I will be using Google Maps over Yelps.
    Twitter @lomak1985

  36. Hi Kai Lo,

    Good point – Google has been busy with their reviews over the past year, especially with trying to provide sentiment analysis to identify which reviews to show. I’m guessing that they will see more people using Google Maps to make choices over where to visit, shop, and do business.

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  38. The more prevalent google is becoming, the more opportunities they are providing to cross integrate. Sometimes it makes my head spin.

  39. Hi Jarrod,

    It does make sense by Google to explore some of those opportunities. Streetviews has to be an incredibly expensive endeavor, sending people out to film and map every street, and even areas that don’t have streets. Given that cost, Google exploring advertising within streetviews shouldn’t be a surprise.

  40. I’m not sure about other areas, but here in Silicon Valley, I’ve been seeing Google’s cars all over the place taking images for street views. I think it highly probably they must be interested in aquiring someone like Zillow or Trulia so they can enter the real estate sales market. We started linking our tours to Google Base this year snd I think this has become commonplace among the larger virtual tour companies.

  41. Hi home2market,

    I’m in a comparatively rural area myself, and I’m not sure I’ve even seen one of Google’s streetviews cars around here. Make’s sense in that there isn’t streetviews available for this area either.

    It’s possible that some of the impetus behind Google’s use of streetviews is tied to entering the real estate marketing. Trulia has been using a mashup of Streetviews for a while now, and Google added a real estate search back in 2008.

  42. Wow! Google are geniuses when it comes to digital advertising. I remember when I first started doing online marketing and it really has come a long way. I’m very impressed by Google and their way of bettering themselves as the top search engine company.

    2 THUMBS UP!

  43. I think this is great! Anything that could help business boom is a plus for me. Google has always had a way of fascinating me … being the completely tech saavy (not!) person that I am.

  44. Hi Alex,

    I’m still wondering how successful an approach like this might be. How likely are potential advertisers to consider advertising on Street Views? I’m not sure, but I know that it’s integration into Google’s Navigation system (the navigation switches over to a streetview as you approach your destination) makes the service more visible. How likely is it that those advertisers will use a service like this, though?

  45. Wow, what a cool feature! I use Google for basically everything these days… gmail, Google Maps, and obviously searching for anything under the sun. Google continues to stay ahead of the curve and deliver things to make all of our lives easier. I don’t know if this is catching on yet, but I’ll have to start checking out street views more often to see what images businesses have put up.

  46. I think this is an interesting idea as far as a way to advertise, but my question is how often do people really use the street view function? I use the geo maps more than street view. This would be more beneficial with regard to what @Tim was talking about with real estate.

    @Bill – It’s funny that you mention advertising on Second Life because I had to start using that for my online classes. I recently wrote an article comparing the Ads on Google Maps to advertising in Second Life (

    I think the biggest challenge would be monitoring everything – I guess Google will be hiring in 2011 πŸ™‚

  47. @Bill – “For instance, if you use Google Navigator in your car, it automatically switches over to streetview as you approach your destination.” I really like that idea, but how effective is the adverting on the streetview if you are already in front of the building. You would be able to just look up and see the billboard posters in your example.

  48. Hi Betsy,

    It’s really difficult to tell how effective advertising in Streetviews might be, if Google decides to go ahead with this approach.

    I suspect that many more people look at geomaps than streetview, but Google may find ways to get more people viewing streetviews. For instance, if you use Google Navigator in your car, it automatically switches over to streetview as you approach your destination.

  49. Hi Betsey,

    I can’t tell you how effective or ineffective those might be, but I would imagine that it would be something that Google might test extensively before they rolled out advertising like this. If streetview ads don’t seem like they would work well, then it’s possible we might never see them.

  50. I was skeptical about streetview when it first came out but I love it now and use it often. I feel the same skepticism towards this advertising on streetview but maybe it will be one of those things I love in the end?

  51. Hi Matt,

    I really like the ability to use streetview to check out some place that I haven’t been to before, but am planning on traveling to. It’s kind of fun to see someplace for the first time, and recognize it from streetview.

    I’m not sure how well advertising like this might work on streetview, but given the fact that streetview is part of Google’s Navigation program (you see a streetview of the area around your destination as you’re arriving), there’s a chance that it might catch on.

  52. Hi Bill,

    Logical conclusion to add listings as part of maps / street view.

    Interesting, Google have just launched ads on the DLR in London that allows someone to take a photo with their smart phone (not a QR code) and it displays direction details. How easy it would be to link properties for sale.



  53. Hi Simon,

    That sounds like a pretty interesting application from Google. I don’t know if we will see ads in Streetviews, but it is interesting how Google is experimenting with ideas like these. Helping someone with directions to a business being advertised sounds like the kind of thing that makes it more likely that someone viewing those ads will become a customer.

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