Spotted recently at a Giant's baseball game was an ad for Google Maps "on the strip of LEDs that festoon the upper decks," Battelle says. "You might call it a non-cpc banner display ad in the middle of the web site that is AT&T Park."
Reader comments also shed light on Google's recent brand-based campaigns, including billboards for the GOOG-411 free directory assistance, and even a Google café in Tokyo. The temporary eatery was serving Google branded shakes and entrees, helping the giant "promote the search engine and other Japanese services," says one reader.
Battelle says that the shift--be it marginal or a sign of even bigger campaigns to come--was inevitable. "It's unavoidable - even if you do have the best product in the world, you need to tell people about it before they get locked into other options."