There is a special subsection of Catch 22 dedicated to commerce - as every business, including the all-conquering Google, is only too well aware!

Deliver record results this time around [WAMN: 25-Apr-05] ... and next time investors will expect, nay demand, yet more pyrotechnic numbers. Ad infinitum.

And ads infinitum is exactly what Google hopes for via a new branded advertising program. This entered its test phase Monday and allows advertisers more control over where their ads are shown, how they pay for them and their visual appearance.

Google's present pay-per-click ad service has proved immensely successful in channelling surfers to marketers' websites - especially those that offer a direct purchase facility. The latest venture, however, targets advertisers who are not necessarily seeking a direct sale but are eager to boost brand image or product awareness

During the pilot stages, at least, Google is not offering these so-called branding ads on or any of its other websites.

Instead, it focuses on the company's large but lower-profile business of selling ads that appear on thousands of other sites, ranging from small blogs to sites of major publishers such as The New York Times.

Sites may choose not to participate in the new service, especially larger companies which may be leery of having Google compete with their inhouse ad sales operations.

Comments John Battelle, author of The Search, an upcoming book on Google: "This [new service] drives the nail into the coffin of the idea that Google is a search business. It is an advertising business that has nothing particularly to do with search."

Google claims it is introducing the changes to give advertisers more flexibility. At present, says Google spokeswoman Susan Wojcicki: "Our system takes things very literally ... if you are on a wine site, we show ads for wine. Now we will let you advertise your cheese on wine sites."

But Battelle believes the change undermines Google's rationale that its business differs from that of most rivals. "The core philosophy of Google's advertising business is that these ads are actually valuable and useful to users: look for Chevy trucks and get Chevy truck ads," he said.

"Now we are in another place. It's more about branding and more about advertising other things than what you are looking for, and, cynically, it may be about being a public company that needs revenue growth."

Google ran some graphical ads on its network last year, but with minimal uptake. To enourage wider use, new graphic ad sizes are on offer, plus a format that permits animation.

However, Google will not permit use of the increasingly popular formats that incorporate video, sound and interactive elements. It will also restrict animations to ensure ads don't repeat endlessly or flash in a distracting manner.

Furthermore, Google has evolved a way to integrate display ads into its existing automated auction, which selects ads for any given page from a database of millions of potential advertisements from hundreds of thousands of marketers.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff