Google Maps missed opportunity?

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Search leader Google launched a New York-based Google Maps consumer campaign on July 15. The “Favorite Places” campaign includes outdoor and online elements. Google developed it in-house and collaborated with NYC & Co., the city’s official marketing and partnership agency. Side note: NYC & Co. is not your grandmother’s convention and visitors’ bureau. It is a well-oiled, dynamic marketing and tourism resource for New York City that is executing some pretty cutting edge projects with backing from a who’s who in the marketing realm. Like its Google partnership.
The campaign is designed to promote the Google Maps service and local businesses, as well as help locals and tourists find the best places to eat, drink, shop and soak up culture, with recommendations from celebrities, politicians and trendsetters. They include Al Gore, Yo-Yo Ma, Moby, Diane von Furstenberg and Isaac Mizrahi.
The businesses that are part of the campaign were selected by the local celebrities based on where the love to shop, eat, and visit, so businesses were not buying keywords or sponsoring in any way. However, businesses can join Google’s Local Business Center at no cost as a way to help searchers find them.
Globally, Google is also touting its favorite places feature through its landing page. It struck partnerships globally with Time Out London, Le Figaro, and United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine, all of whom contributed information for the maps.
"We often try to find creative ways to promote our products and services,” said Michaela Prescott, senior marketing manager for Google Maps, in an e-mail. “We're excited to spread the word about the Favorite Places campaign and the Local Business Center on Google Maps.”
It's a fun campaign, and the artwork is great. Google and NYC & Co. are applauded for the effort. However, it seems to me Google is missing a business opportunity. Right now, local businesses are able to use Local Business Ads, available through its AdWords product, to have their ads show up on Google Maps, as well as set up locally-targeted keywords. But wouldn’t it have made sense for Google to use that idea to give local businesses a sales opportunity to be part of the Favorite Places campaign itself? Just asking.

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