UPDATE: Google officially announces Local Advertising with Google Boost.
Places accounts are lighting up with their own advertising system dubbed Google Boost. Google very quietly launched a new form of paid advertising for Google Places and local business listings call "Google Boost". You will notice within your Google Places Account, underneath the "Tags" lionk you there is a new otption for "Boost Ad".
Notice that the ad mixes in with the typical paid AdWords ads. The only distinction is the blue place marker. See one in action:
First look at the interface shows a simplified AdWords interface, one step set up of your ads. No keywords, no cost-per-click settings, simply ad text and monthly budget.
One thing that I always thought Google could improve was the hyper-local advertising space. There is no reason a small business owner should not be able to target someone looking for services in an area without going through the complications of AdWords. AdWords and local SEO agencies might take a hit from the savvy business owner as a result of this move. In short, it has become easier for small business owners to give Google money directly.