One of the regular taunts Thinkbox gets is that Google has become the biggest brand in the world without using TV advertising. We usually respond by saying a) no-one says you can’t build a brand without using TV, it’s just easier and quicker if you do and b) brands which occupy significant real estate have a great advantage. Marks and Spencer eschewed any advertising for decades; significant presence on the high street plus great products meant they managed fine for a very long time.
Google owns the biggest bit of online real estate imaginable; 80% of online journeys start by going through a search gateway, mostly Google’s. Google is dominant because it is a fantastic search product; it has become the generic for the category and entered the dictionary. Until something comes along that improves on it (Bing?) why would we swap brands? But such things do happen; the majority of us now do the ‘hoovering’ with a Dyson.
Google did in fact advertise its Chrome browser on TV last year but, until last night, had not done so for its core search business. It did however invest in a series of classy films that have been available online, including YouTube, for the last three months.
Last night it bit the bullet and bought a big fat TV spot in the Super Bowl in order to share one of these with a much wider audience. This is the one it used. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO hinted at this on Twitter on Saturday saying: “Can’t wait to watch the Super Bowl tomorrow. Be sure to watch the ads in the 3rd quarter (someone said “Hell has indeed frozen over.””)
I kept an eye on this ad after I saw that. Up to the moment I went to bed last night at about 11.30pm it had received 1.4m views online. That’s impressive. But its one spot in the Super Bowl will have been seen by about 100m people and I’m sure that its online views will now go through the roof because the ads that go viral big-time are the ones where TV starts the ball rolling.
The Google ad is classic TV in that it uses demonstration, emotion and story-telling to build deeper affinity to a great product. I’ve been saying for a while that Google perhaps could be even more successful if it added some emotional attributes to its brand; it would help protect them against a rationally superior competitor who could emerge at any time. Respect is good, but respect plus love is dynamite for brands. Their TV ad, a 50” story about falling in love in Paris, is one way of making viewers fall in love with Google themselves. I’m sure it will also do wonders for their staff morale as a side benefit.
Has “hell frozen over”? I hope Eric Schmidt’s comment was tongue in cheek, because I hate the way people try to position TV and online media as locked mortal enemies. Search is no less effective than it was before Google went on TV, just as TV is no less brilliant when presenters advise viewers to follow their favourite shows via social media. In the UK, we have found Google to be (mostly) collaborative and respectful to TV, prepared to speak at our events and to share data that proves TV’s effect on search. Search is one of the best ways we can demonstrate TV’s effectiveness, so we quite like Google. If they keep spending money on TV, maybe even we could fall in love.