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Google’s Chilling Super Bowl Ad

Winter Storm Moves South From Mountain View

Thursday, February 11, 2010 | Posted by Aaron Goldman

Posted In: Digital Marketing / Google / Press / Press Mentions

Hell Freezing Over

Image Source

Last Sunday was a cold day in Hell, indeed. Not only did the company that's never needed to advertise throw down a cool couple mil. for a Super Bowl ad but it chose to promote the one product in its arsenal that didn't need the exposure.

My brother, David, and I shared our POV's -- yes, SEM runs deep in the Goldman DNA -- with MediaPost for its recap of Google's showing in the big game. More commentary after the excerpt...
Some marketers seemed happy to see Google promote Search Stories. David Goldman, senior search specialist at MRM Worldwide, thinks it makes the brand come alive. "It's ironic Google prompted itself during the Super Bowl, as a search engine where stories begin, so many stories also begin from the ads that run during the Super Bowl game," Goldman says. "It's also interesting Google decided to promote search and not its technology like Chrome or Mobile OS."

The ad took Goldman's brother Aaron Goldman by surprise, too. There are many Google products that could use a boost, but search isn't one of them, he says -- adding that the ad was a nice comeback to the positioning of Microsoft Bing's ads for the decision engine.
When Eric Schmidt sent this teaser tweet, after picking my jaw up off the floor, I started speculating like everyone else about what ad Google would run. My money was on the Nexus One -- and the Colts so go figure -- because of Google's big mobile push and the fact that early sales of the Google phone have been underwhelming. I figured there was no way Google would just run a straight-up search ad what with its commanding market share lead and general aversion to advertising its search product. 

When I first saw the familiar blinking cursor at the outset of the commercial -- recall this ad had been playing on YouTube for a few months -- I knew it was from Google's Search Stories series and guessed -- correctly this time -- that it was Parisian  Love. My first instinct was to shout it from the tweet-tops.

My next thought was to try and pull a "gotcha" on Google if they weren't buying relevant paid search keywords. I could hear the voices of countless Google sales reps ringing in my ears as they chastised Super Bowl advertisers for not supporting their buys with search ads. 

Sure enough, though, Google had full coverage. And the copy it ran in its PPC ads really brought home what the commercial was all about. Here are some screenshots:

Google Ad


Google Love StoryGoogle SuperBowl Ad

Google Super Bowl Commercial: Paris Love Story

My third thought -- and this was all before the commercial pod was over, mind you -- was to fire off a note to Laurie Sullivan at MediaPost -- cc'ing my little bro -- with my reaction.

"Every Search is a Quest. Every Quest Is a Story." I love it. Clearly,  a direct shot at Bing.

Methinks what Google's saying here is that, while Bing may be able to help you make a decision here or there, Google is your reliable resource for everyday queries. Sure, Bing has some nifty one-off features like Farecast integration but it doesn't return the same degree of highly relevant links search in and search out. 

With Search Stories, Google positions itself as the soundtrack of your life. It's there at every turn, woven into the fabric, insert other cliches here.

It's Marketing 101 -- showcase features, not benefits. Making decisions: feature. Living life: benefit. Finding love: bonus.

So, was it worth 2+ million dollars? Hard to say. The video now has nearly 3.5 million views on YouTube -- it had just over 1 million when the ad ran. And that doesn't include all the folks that saw it live or on Tivo. Of course, if comScore's numbers hold, 65% of all those people already use Google. 

Unlike most Google advertisers, I don't think the goal here was direct response. Although I would be eager to see the spike in search activity this ad may have stimulated. And, ultimately, for Google, any direct ROI would come from clicks on paid search ads but it would be hard to isolate cause-and-effect here as all the SuperBowl ads likely drove search and click volume.  My guess is this was just a good ole branding ad. Cold day in Hell, indeed. 

Good fodder for my book, though, as Chapter 20 covers the lesson, "Don't rely on SEM alone." Speaking of my book, it's time to go back on blogging hiatus while I finish up my manuscript. Full update on my progress here. Accordingly, posting will continue to be light here for a couple more months. I'll probably just update this post with assorted press mentions like this one from last week about a startup search engine called that purports to win out by preying on privacy fears. Spoiler alert: ain't gonna happen!


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