Third Party Billboard Advertising in Google Earth

Billboard advertising in Google EarthGoogle has not yet forced 3D model-based advertising into Google Earth. So far, all of Google’s ads have been very unobtrusive and only seen when you perform a search for something business related. In fact, until recently ads were only text based. Now they have a few with image logos of companies related to searches like “hotels” – but, the images only appear in placemark descriptions or as very small placemark icons. Google has also promoted meaningful Google Earth layers on behalf of companies who put them together – for example, the National Geographic layers under Featured Content. This is indirect advertising which benefits everyone.
Since Google hasn’t done it yet, one company has decided to grab real estate in Google Earth and sell 3D billboard ads to companies. The company is called BrightGIS and they have already uploaded about a dozen 3D models of billboards into the Google 3DWarehouse. Placing them on highways in prominent places around the US. They have chosen to put billboards of normal dimensions with accurate details. Right now, the ads portrayed are to promote their own services “Rent this Space!!”. You can try downloading one of these into GE and see for yourself .
This is an interesting concept. But, I’m not sure it is going to work. Unless their billboards get picked up by the “3D Buildings->3D Warehouse->Best of 3DWarehouse” layer, they are unlikely to be seen by many people. Also, they need to work on the technical implementation. You may notice some anomalies, as seen in my screenshot here, with the billboard texture. They probably need to adjust their billboard texture so it is not coincident with the surface of the board. My video card can’t decide which surface to display first. Also, they model unnecessary details like ladders and lattice work of the billboards. While this adds realism when zoomed in close, it also adds complexity. And finally, what is to stop some other billboard advertiser from placing a bigger 3D billboard right in front of their billboard? BrightGIS also is offering services to create 3D Models for businesses. Perhaps this billboard thing is a marketing strategy to help gain attention for their other services?

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. The Google Earth Community is really going to have to do more culling of its content to eliminate the clutter of redundant or misplaced placemarks, and this sort of 3D spam. The “Best of” layer serves this function pretty well for now, but as the user base grows it would be nice to have some user-oriented system of flagging spam, like on craigslist.
    I use Google Earth because it is an attempt at representing the real world as it actually exists. I don’t want to load it up two years from now and see a clutter of virtual billboards and Second Life-esque imaginary homes. Hopefully google will devise a model for legitimate, clearly identified, and unobtrusive ads in GE, like they did with AdSense, and keep this guerrilla marketing to a minimum.

  2. I completely agree with Lauren. Let’s hope Google is smart about this — the last thing we need is to destroy the realism and professionalness of GE with this stupid “virtual ad” stuff.

  3. I don’t see how this won’t happen. Google thrives on ads. So does the entirety of the internet. If the money wasn’t so easy to come by advertisors wouldn’t even bother.

  4. This post is very informative

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