Google Math: Buy $1,000 in Radio Ads, And We'll Give You $2,000 Back

picture-229.pngHere’s a good brain teaser for those famous Google job interviews: If you pay me $1,000, and I give you $2,000 back, how much profit does that leave me?

Unfortunately, this is not a hypothetical question. It’s an actual promotion for Google’s radio ad network, known as Google Audio. That’s right, Google is offering $2,000 to any advertiser who spends $1,000 on a Google Audio ad campaign. The $2,000 comes in the form of a credit on future ad campaigns, but part of it still comes out of Google’s pocket since it needs to pay the radio stations who will run the ads. It amounts to a “buy one, get two free” offer and is good through the end of the year.

This is but the latest piece of evidence that, while Google may be golden in online advertising, its forays into off-line advertising have yet to catch on. Google must be having a real hard time selling those radio ads to have to resort to such a blatant attempt to buy market share. It’s not the first time it’s tried such tactics either. Last year, in an effort to jumpstart Google Checkout, for instance, Google paid $10 for every $30 in sales that merchants directed through its PayPal competitor. I’m not sure how well that went. But last time I checked, PayPal was still around.

Just because Google has cash to burn doesn’t mean it should use that cash to try to buy market share. If it truly has a better way of buying and selling radio ads, advertisers and radio stations will quickly figure that out on their own. It is not a good sign when Google has to resort to paying customers to try out a new product.