Touchdown Google!

If you watched the Super Bowl Sunday night, you saw at least two ground-breaking events: Of course, the New Orleans Saints took home their first Superbowl Trophy, and the Search Engine Giant, Google, stepped into the world of traditional advertising.  Over the past decade, more often than not, the Super Bowl commercials have generated more buzz than the teams competing. Even when the football isn’t especially great – the commercials usually are, and this year Google took full advantage of the advertising world’s most anticipated event, with one of the most surprising commercials of the night.

Perhaps Saturday’s tweet by Google CEO Eric Schmidt put it best –“Hell has indeed frozen over”. Google ran its first major television ad, and during the Super Bowl, none the less. It was an unexpected move by the search engine leader, who retains a search market share exceeding 70 percent, to spend an estimated $5 million to have a 1 minute advertisement aired during the third quarter.  Google brings in billions from online ads but has steered clear of having a traditional marketing strategy for its own brand, even as industry competitors, such as Microsoft and Yahoo, continue to spent millions on tv and print advertising to compete with them. Google’s sheer size is in disproportion with their advertising budget. The world-known search engine has been mainly promoting itself on the web, via company blogs, and of course by being a constant subject of media reports and countless blog posts.

Google’s heartfelt ad, “Parisian Love”, consists of a series of 11 searches, which come together to tell a compelling story through search phrases. The commercial tells the story of a romance helped along by a series of Google searches conducted by a young man. The subtle, yet powerful marketing message resonated with viewers, and in some cases (myself included) left them a bit teary eyed. The commercial illustrates the story of a young man who finds love after a simple plan to study abroad in Paris turns into love, marriage and a need to know how to assemble a crib.

The buzz-worthy ad has left many viewers comparing it to competitor commercials and many are left confused as to why Google felt it needed to make such a dramatic move to promote its best known product, a product with no real marketing problems. Of course, not everyone thought it was a wise investment for the brand who’s name is almost a verb in the world of search. In the words of YouTube commenter, ShadyHady, “Google commercials? Isn’t that rather like, say, oxygen commercials or knife and fork commercials?” But with Google’s approach to internal marketing, one Super Bowl slot may be efficient when it comes to coverage vs. expenditure.

While the commercial probably did not introduce the Google brand to anyone for the first time, here are a few reasons Google may have made the dive into television advertising:

The buzz. People are talking about the ad right?  While the majority of the media coverage has not been about the actual ad content, but rather the fact that there was an ad, it is still coverage. And while it may be short lived, Google is the most talked about search engine at the moment.

Make a statement. Amid the over the top million dollar mini-sagas that make up the line-up of Super Bowl commercials, Google’s ad simply explained what the search engine does and showed just how well it works. This message mirrors the search engines’ simple, yet highly effective performance, which is the very basis of the Google brand.

Appeal to advertisers. Some businesses still view online advertising with suspicion. No matter how big Google already is, a Super Bowl slot reminds people that it’s a major mainstream player in the advertising world.

Reinforce their brand. Many commercials serve simply to remind people who the market leader is, rather than inform them about a new product or promotion. World-known brands find it helpful to remind the public about themselves in a positive light — especially on the Super Bowl.

Keep up with the competition. Google may be feeling some heat from Bing and Yahoo’s new campaigns, as well as Apple’s successful advertising. Especially with the growing number of Microsoft Bing search engine “attack ads”, Google may have decided to make their mark in the advertising world. Marty Orzio, partner and chief creative office of ad agency Gotham in New York, called the ad:

 “A classic little love story told beautifully” that highlighted why Google was different from the competition. If you think about Bing or any of their competition, nobody else can say they are playing an important role in people’s lives,” he said. “They have not have been around long enough to have an impact like that. Google is claiming territory that only they can claim, which is why I thought it was absolutely brilliant.”

In conclusion, what Google’s memorable and somewhat controversial Super Bowl presence may signal is that after relying heavily on word of mouth marketing alone, the company is finally learning how to market itself via traditional paths, something that will take a great deal of stategic planning, and  will be crucial as its business diversifies and competitors continue to gain a foothold in the search industry. Using only its own outlets for promotion, such as YouTube, isn’t enough for a company looking to reach a broad mix of consumers. Google is clearly skilled at selling online ads, but formulating a marketing strategy for itself, well it remains a work in progress.

Missed Google’s Super Bowl commerical? Watch it Here.

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