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Google tunes into radio ads

Beta lets advertisers buy radio ads, further evolving the search giant's online automated advertising system.

Google is allowing some of its existing online marketers to use its automated advertising system to broadcast ads on radio stations around the United States, the company said on Thursday.

The beta test of Google Audio Ads is the result of the integration of technology from Google's acquisition of radio advertising company dMarc Broadcasting nearly a year ago.

The test is limited to just over 20 Google AdWords customers and more than 730 stations, including XM Satellite radio, said Ryan Steelberg, head of radio operations for Google and a co-founder of dMarc.

The radio ads are running in more than 260 metropolitan markets, covering about 87 percent of the country, he said.

"We've been rewriting the entire dMarc protocol and system in Google technology," Steelberg said. "The core is on Google technology."

AdWords customers selected to participate in the beta will see a new "audio ads" tag when they log into the AdWords system. Similar to the AdWords auction-based system for online ads, advertisers can bid on air spots and target their ads by geography, station type, listener demographics and time of day.

The system allows advertisers to see real-time reports on the ads and change settings, like geographical target or time of day, as well as hear the ad after it has played.

Typically, the more targeted an ad campaign the higher the rates, according to Steelberg.

He could not say when the test will be open to the public.

Google is also testing a program that will link up inexperienced radio marketers with professionals who can help them create a radio ad. Google Audio Ads beta tester Richard Swezey, executive vice president of Santa Monica, Calif.-based, said he is using that program, which Google called an "ad creative marketplace," to get help in creating a radio ad to sell portable recliner pillows.

"Within 12 hours of submitting the bid, we got back a completed ad based on relatively scant information," he said. "For a first shot, we were blown away by it."

The minimum price for a bid is $100 and his bid was $300, Swezey said.

Google also has a reservation-type system that uses a direct sales force and services traditional radio agencies and ad buyers, he said.

Google has been trying to expand its lucrative online advertising system to other markets. The company last year quietly ran a limited test in some magazines and last month announced a .