Two days later and people are still wondering why exactly Google chose to advertise on television for the first time during the SuperBowl. But while the commercial probably won’t have introduced Google to anyone for the first time, there are still some valid reasons to have made the move:
It got people talking. Most of the media coverage has not been about the content of Google’s ad, but merely about the fact that it placed an advert. Whether that coverage was worth the money is questionable, but for a firm with Google’s approach to marketing, one Super Bowl slot may be the most efficient commercial when it comes to coverage vs expenditure.
It made the point. With so many people watching, Super Bowl commercials have become as much about showing off the creativity of advertising departments as they are about getting a message across. Amid this barrage of attention-grabbing mini-sagas, Google’s ad simply explained what the search engine does and showed how well it works. That’s entirely appropriate given that an understated, simplistic but highly effective performance is the very basis of Google’s brand image.
It might have annoyed Microsoft. This is a point made by Derek Thompson of The Atlantic, who notes that the Google slot will have cost an estimated $3 million, compared with the $100 million spent marketing Bing. While it may be a short-lived effect, Google is the search engine getting all the attention right now.
Appeal to advertisers. Crazy as it may be for Geeks Are Sexy regulars to try to imagine, some businesses still view online advertising with suspicion, seeing it as something of a niche market. No matter how big Google already is, a Super Bowl slot reminds people that it’s a major mainstream player.
Brand reinforcement. Many commercials serve simply to remind people who the market leader is rather than inform them about the company’s products. After all, there can’t be a person in America who’s never heard of McDonalds, yet the firm still runs commercials, not all of which relate to specific new products or deals.
All that said, it’s still possible to play Monday morning quarterback (OK, Tuesday morning…) For all the benefits I’ve noted, there’s a very strong argument that the slot would have been better spent advertising either Android phones in general or the Nexus One in particular. With sales averaging an estimated 20,000 a week, the tactic of keeping both marketing and sales of the Nexus One online only looks to have failed. While an internet-only strategy may have been worth experimenting with, it would also have been interesting to see how much difference would have been made by explaining what a “Google phone” is (and why people need one) to the biggest audience in US television history.