From my experience and as far as I can tell, the Google AdWords Express advertising platform associated with Google Places (now Google+ Local) is a huge ripoff in terms of cost-per-click, performance, and ROI.
Google has been on a big $100 AdWords voucher kick and so I’ve used those to try out the Express platform. It is an extremely simplified version of AdWords where you write your ad text, provide some broad categories for your business, and set a monthly budget. It is designed to be less overwhelming that the full AdWords platform for beginners or do-it-yourself business owners but what it really does is create extremely un-optimized campaigns that cost a ton of money.
On a campaign I was running through AdWords, average cost-per-clicks were $2-$3. I started up an Express campaign for the same company and the average cost-per-clicks were $6. Click-through-rates were also far lower (1.25% vs. 3.07%) as were conversions being tracked. It seems like they take your monthly budget and meet it, no matter what. Since you can’t control bids or keywords, you rely on Google’s automated system to look out for you.
I would recommend that you get a an AdWords professional to set up your campaigns for you. Call around or email around to ask about pricing and plans but, in the end, you should see a far greater return on a professionally built campaign than with using AdWords Express.
However, it is worth noting that Google does reserve certain features that are only available through the AdWords Express platform. Reviews and stars are shown on the Express ads and so may stand out better than the other ads. Google pulls in reviews from Places and Google+ Local pages as well as Google Checkout and select 3rd party review sites.