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Google Woos Business Users With Billboard Ad Campaign

The company that made Internet advertising what it is today has decided to promote Google Apps using really big display ads by the highway.

Starting on Monday, Google will begin pitching its enterprise productivity suite, Google Apps, in a decidedly retro manner: The search advertising giant is paying for billboard space on four major U.S. highways to encourage businesses to consider "going Google."

"Going Google", as Google defines it, means embracing cloud computing: never worrying about e-mail storage space or backing up files, access to documents and collaboration with colleagues from any Web browser, and never having to worry about IT-related upgrades or infrastructure maintenance.

Presumably it doesn't include the risks of cloud computing: figuring out how to regain control of your account and your files after someone steals your password, worrying that "trust us" isn't really the same as on-site security auditing, and wondering how much it would cost to turn a data center employee toward the dark side.

The billboard campaign represents a continuation of Google's increasingly energetic outreach to potential business customers. Through tools like Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook and its vocal promotion of recent customer wins like Fairchild Semiconductor, Hamilton Beach Brands, JohnsonDiversey, and Valeo, Google has become the Pied Piper of cloud computing.

Drivers on San Francisco's Highway 101, New York's West Side Highway, Chicago's Eisenhower Expressway, and Boston's Massachusetts Turnpike will get to see Google's billboards, which will feature a new message every day for a month.

The messages will describe the frustration that motivates business users to become Google converts.

"The billboards tell the story of an anonymous IT manager who gets so fed up with the typical IT status quo that his company eventually -- you guessed it -- goes Google," explains Andy Berndt, managing director of Google Creative Lab, in a blog post.

Having anticipated environmental blowback for festooning commute corridors with promotional plastic, Google has pledged to recycle the vinyl used for its billboards into "either computer bags or shopping bags."

It's hard to imagine a more fitting way of using ads to drive sales than turning them into bags for purchases.

If only Google Apps came in a box.

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