Google Seeks to Improve Local Search UX with AI

In mid-October, Google held a livestream event, Search On, where they announced new AI-powered features aimed at improving user experience. These new features make search more sophisticated in an effort to help users better navigate the physical world around them. One of the biggest announcements from Search On was that Google is now using their natural language understanding algorithm, BERT, on almost every search query in English. This will help the algorithm better understand user intent and therefore serve more relevant search results.

In addition to BERT, there were three other features that stuck out to local search professionals: ‘Busyness,’ AR in Google Maps and Google Duplex.

‘Busyness’ Accuracy Update

With COVID-19 drastically affecting local businesses, Google has opted to discard pre-COVID popular time data when showing a business’ ‘Busyness’ on their Google listing. Google is now using “more recent data from the previous four to six weeks to quickly adapt to changing patterns for popular times.” Google is still using real-time mobile user data to populate “Live Busyness.”

AR Use Case for Google Maps with Live View

Last year, Google rolled out augmented reality walking directions on Google Maps. Named Live View, this feature overlays navigation on top of Google Street View data so users can navigate to their destination in a real-world view.

Source:  Google

During Search On, Google spoke about a variety of use cases for AR technology with one of them relating to Google Maps. The idea is to use AR in Google Maps with Live View to show users a location’s Google My Business listing when the user points their camera at the physical location. This is an idea that Google has been working on for nearly a decade and one that requires highly accurate location data. With AR, Google hopes to make this idea come to life.

Google Duplex Updates Local Business Data

Google Duplex is a virtual assistant originally designed to help users make appointments or reservations at local businesses. Last year Google began using this feature to directly reach out to business owners to confirm local business information they have on file for their business. Google announced this at Search On and said that Duplex has been instrumental in “over 3 million updates to businesses like pharmacies, restaurants and grocery stores that have been seen over 20 billion times in Maps and Search.”

Between 50-60 percent of Google My Business profiles in the U.S. are owner verified. However, even listings that are claimed are sometimes not updated with accurate business information. Google Duplex is helping to close that gap by utilizing their technology to verify data with business owners.


Need help managing your brand’s local business information? Mindstream Media Group can help. We have the solutions national or franchise brands with hundreds or even thousands of points of distribution need to manage their local presence. Contact us today to learn how we can help your locations be found easily when consumers are seeking information to make buying decisions.

Meet the Mindstreamer – Jessica Wienhold

Jessica Wienhold is far from new to the media game. She’s been a Mindstreamer for 12 years working out of our Cedar Falls, IA office. Her passion for finding order within chaos and keeping things on track make her the perfect fit as Director of Account Services. She oversees a great team of account staff and enjoys discussing new ways to help them maximize efficiency and move their client objectives forward. Not one to sit on the sidelines, Jessica likes to get her hands dirty and jumps at the chance to assist with operation initiatives to manage workflow and the project management process.

Jessica always knew she was meant to manage workflows and projects and lives by a to-do list. Checking off tasks throughout the day gives her a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. She loves a challenge (good thing since she’s a mom of two boys) and enjoys finding new ways to work efficiently both for Mindstream and the clients we serve. Jessica is inspired by those she works with and loves partnering with clients to make progress and see results. Little steps add up and being proactive goes a long way.

As this year has taught us, you never know what’s going to be thrown your way. Your reaction to a situation is the only thing within your control. Attitude and flexibility are key. Jessica offers this advice to anyone wanting to pursue a career in this industry, “Very rarely do things go exactly as planned, and as a marketer you need to be ready to pivot when the environment changes.”

Coming into the industry during the beginning of a recession shaped the way Jessica thinks about media and marketing. The need to get a client’s message in front of the consumer quickly and efficiently continues to fuel the industry, but the way those messages are being consumed has changed dramatically. The agencies and clients that continue to evaluate and evolve their media to capture their target audience are the ones that succeed. Jessica notes, “The last 12 years has taught me that you have to be flexible to the environment while staying grounded in what matters most to your business. Finding that perfect balance is what we strive for. Flexibility will continue to be key. Evolving the way we target consumers will be different five years from now and being agile will be a must for companies.”

When she’s not perfecting workflows and developing creative solutions for Mindstream and our clients, Jessica enjoys spending time with family, days at the lake, long, leisurely trips to Target (obviously sans kids and husband) and watching football and basketball. She follows a lot of mommy vloggers/bloggers for tips and tricks to keep things running smoothly at home and enjoys the quick and informative Marketing Brew newsletter to stay on top of industry happenings.


An enormous part of what makes Mindstream Media Group successful is the collective talent and collaboration of its employees across the country. While we as an agency love to share stories about client successes, industry news and product updates on our MMG Blog, we also want to feature the actual people behind the work we are doing to grow client business.

Our recent video series, Fast-Forward the Conversation, discusses the HOW behind supporting client growth through media strategy, with topics like shopper marketing, franchise work, influencing the customer journey, QSR challenges and more.

We’ll also begin to feature a Mindstreamer (as we like to call ourselves) periodically to share their stories and celebrate the diverse people, backgrounds, interests and qualities that make us unique.

[Video]: Providing Media Leverage to Agency Partners

The agency landscape has changed dramatically thanks to the pressures created by the pandemic. Learn how we’re filling the gap for agency partners that now have limited media and research capabilities. In this episode of Fast-Forward the Conversation, VP of Business Development Fabio Ramos and Planning Strategist Misty Castellanos join President Zac Keeney to discuss the value we can provide not only to other agencies but to their clients as well.

Fast-Forward the Conversation

We believe the daily pressure on CMOs to move their business forward is real, intense and not going away. Join our media practitioners, as we discuss the HOW behind making meaningful progress, on well-defined targets.


Catch the Highlights

  • COVID-19 has presented numerous challenges across the marketplace that have drastically changed the agency landscape. Agencies are rethinking not only staffing but which capabilities they will handle themselves versus bringing in a partner to provide.
  • There are 3 seminal points where we can provide value, not only to agency partners but to their clients.
    • Scale
    • Perspective/Research
    • Trusted Partnership


  • The wide range of capabilities that we have, from traditional to broadcast to digital to analytics, allows us to be a true media powerhouse. This proficiency gives us the opportunity to extend our offering beyond our direct clients to other agencies that can benefit from that partnership.
  • From the pricing insight that we can provide on the media landscape to the market research tools that we use in our planning and strategy – there’s no incremental labor. An agency can use us as their media arm without having to hire a full staff or sign multiple contracts with vendors to fulfill media buys for their clients.
  • This allows agencies to focus on their core competency while leaving the media piece for us to fulfill for their clients, giving them the opportunity to capture additional revenue that they weren’t able to before without investing a large amount of money to handle these capabilities in-house.


  • Even prior to COVID-19, we would have agency partners reach out to us for research help because of the tools we have at our fingertips to do things like build audience profiles and analyze the competitive landscape.
  • Many agencies have had to cut expenses, and that might have meant sacrificing their research tools. We love to help fill that gap.
  • We invest over $1 million annually in the industry’s best research tools. This data helps to define and drive media recommendations.
  • Kantar Strategy – provides insight into the competitive landscape from a directional sense on where brands are spending across traditional and digital media.
  • Pathmatics – allows us to get an idea of spend by brand and shows how creative messaging changes throughout the year. This has been especially helpful given the challenges this year, to ensure we’re using the right voice and messaging to resonate with consumers.
  • MRI Simmons OneView – helps identify and paint a more complete picture of an audience segment by going beyond demographics to reveal their attitudes, opinions and beliefs.

Trusted Partnership

  • Whether just down the road or across the country, we’ve helped multiple agencies with their research needs.
  • When a creative shop in southern California needed to drive end-of-year donations for a nationwide nonprofit client, they turned to us for planning and execution of a multi-channel campaign. We crafted a media plan for a 60-day flight with the goal of reaching the previous year’s donations ($10 million). Not only did we hit the goal by deadline, but we surpassed it by 8 percent. The ROI on that campaign was 240 percent, a win-win across the board.
  • About three years ago a creative agency out of D.C. called us to co-pitch an education client. We won the business and are still working with the client, running media globally which has resulted in additional creative work for the primary agency.
  • We’re also partnering with an agency just down the road from our San Diego office to fill an analytics/data visualization need. They were also looking for programmatic display to be integrated with campaigns they were running in-house. We created a concise strategy and developed a live dashboard making it much easier for the client to access their media story.
  • We recently had an interactive agency partner come to us about a research opportunity for a Canadian client of theirs that is looking to expand into the U.S. They tasked us to look at a couple of markets and help them identify, of the two, which one is the better market to go into for their next distribution warehouse.
  • Ten years ago, a B2B agency in Oklahoma reached out for assistance with a couple of clients that were looking to get into some traditional media, TV and radio, and they just didn’t have those capabilities in-house. We’ve evolved with them as a true extension of their team. Our team members are even included on their website as their media personnel. Not only have we helped their existing clients grow, we’ve pitched and won new clients with them.
  • When responding to an RFP a few years ago we discovered that a former client contact had joined an agency in Florida. Familiar with our media expertise, they reached out to us to give their creative shop an edge in. We partnered with them and have been pitching new business together ever since.
  • Our relationship with a creative shop on the east coast started with an audit when a CPG brand was looking for a business intelligence perspective to determine if their media efforts were working. We uncovered some opportunities and provided momentum to the creative. We’re now reviewing budget increases for 2021 based on the success of that work driving more sales.

If you’re on the agency side and looking for a partner to help take your work to the next level, we should chat. Connect with us to explore the opportunities.

[Video]: QSR in a Dynamic Marketplace

It’s been a tough year for restaurants. Hear how we developed a unique strategy to drive brand awareness for a QSR client with a new product launch amid a sea of political advertising in Florida. In this episode of Fast-Forward the Conversation, Group Planning Director Shelby Clement talks Twitch and capturing eyeballs in Florida where TV is off the table due to over-the-top political ad spending.

Fast-Forward the Conversation

We believe the daily pressure on CMOs to move their business forward is real, intense and not going away. Join our media practitioners, as we discuss the HOW behind making meaningful progress, on well-defined targets.


Catch the Highlights

  • A regional QSR brand operating across all major markets in Florida postponed the launch of a new sandwich from July to October due to the pandemic.
  • With Florida being hit with the most political spending of any state ($100 million in that market alone), we knew our core anchor tactic of TV to generate awareness was off the table.
  • As a Premier Google Partner, we have access to exclusive tools like the Audience Explorer report. This showed us specific consumer profiles of who was watching our past limited time only video promotions in their entirety.
  • The report helped us identify a highly engaged gamer segment worth nurturing further.
  • This was an untapped audience for the client that focused heavily on traditional media like TV with digital support on Facebook and Instagram.
  • The majority of gamers are typically young males 18-34 or 18-49 and are not heavy TV users. Although they are active on social, they tend to use Snapchat and TikTok, not Facebook and Instagram.
  • Twitch, the world’s leading live streaming platform for gamers, was deployed as a media tactic to reach this audience.
  • But Twitch is not a standalone media tactic. We had to find another way to capture all the eyeballs lost by foregoing TV.
  • OOH became our next best go-to for the reach, especially considering Florida is more of an “open” state, less impeded by restrictions and limitations on the types of businesses that can be open.
  • We’re fortunate to have a close relationship with this client. Sales and transaction data are uploaded to our reporting dashboards weekly.
  • Transactions are analyzed to determine if the media created a lift. We’re also looking at what happened to sales of the new product compared to others to determine the amount of trade-off versus increased sales.
  • Once the election is over, TV will be added to the plan but due to anticipated continued inventory pressures, heavy levels of precisely targeted digital will be maintained.

See the next episode, Providing Media Leverage to Agency Partners.