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Google has released what it calls “Model Automotive Ads,” a new ad format that brings up slick swipeable images of cars when consumers search on Google for particular models.

The auto industry is just the latest to be aggressively targeted by Google, as the company faces heightened competition from Facebook in attracting advertisers. Just three weeks ago, Google released a new search format aimed at the travel industry. Called Destinations on Google, it isn’t an ad unit, but rather helps users more quickly find hotel and flight info. Such search features are a key advantage Google has over Facebook. So far, Facebook hasn’t been able to effectively serve users who are searching for specific information or advertisers looking to respond to such direct intent from users.

The latest ad format plays to Google’s strengths and provides automotive companies with an innovative way to feature their cars and to more quickly pull users into their dealerships.

Search for Toyota Prius 2016, for example, and Google will return a rotating reel of images of the car, its interior and its other features, along with buttons (located underneath) that you can click to reach Toyota’s official Prius site and interact with local dealers.

A Toyota Prius Ad

Above: A Toyota Prius Ad

In its blog post, Google said this is the first search ad format to include this type of dynamic, swipeable imagery.

The company initially shared plans to build these ads back in May of last year. Today it finally made the ads available to all OEM automotive advertisers in the U.S.

Google announced stats from Toyota and Dealer.com that suggest the ad is performing well. Toyota, for example, reports seeing a 45 percent increase in conversion compared to standard text ads, according to the Google blog post. Dealer.com saw a 30 percent higher click-through rate, and website visitors from intent-based dealership queries increased by 40 percent, the post said.

Google said the feature responds to a change in the way people are shopping for cars. They no longer like going from dealership to dealership. Instead, they’re using their smartphones to search for models, compare prices, and get advice. Google said that half of all searches for cars are on smartphones and that car searches are up 51 percent from last year alone.

Google said people also like to use images to help them with their choices, reporting that searches for “pictures of [automotive brand]” are up 37 percent over the last year.


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