MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Google, the internet search giant, has launched a rare offline marketing campaign, encouraging business users to "Go Google" in support of its web-based range of products that are competing with Microsoft Office.

The company started running outdoor ads in Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco yesterday, as part of a strategy to promote its business applications, which cost $50 (€35; £29) a year for each registered user.

Its out-of-home ads will display a different message each weekday during August, although the company has announced it does not intend to roll communications out across other forms of traditional media.

However, it has introduced a Spread the Word section of its own website, offering posters and information allowing consumers to do "some (internal) marketing" to their colleagues.

Similarly, it has developed a Twitter feed tied to the campaign, and added video content providing further details about its billboard ads to YouTube.

Michael Lock, director of North American sales for Google Enterprise, argued "people don't necessarily think of Google when it comes to how we can help companies."

While the online colossus is mainly seeking to undermine Microsoft's suite of products, it is also increasingly encroaching on the territory occupied by IBM.

Google estimates that 1.75 million commercial and public organisations currently use its business tools, although the majority of this group are utilising a free, less sophisticated, version than its paid-for offering.

Revenues from its non-advertising operations, including its business "apps", reached just $365 million in the first half of this year, compared with $10.7 billion in advertiser spending in this period.

Earlier this year, Google also ran its first ever television spots in support of its new web browser, Chrome, a rival to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Data sourced from Associated Press/PC World; additional content by WARC staff