Google turns to TV ads

05 May 2011

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Google, the digital giant, is running its biggest ever offline advertising campaign in a bid to boost usage of products like the Chrome web browser.

The company has started showing 90-second TV spots, created with Bartle Bogle Hegarty, promoting various aspects of its product stable.

Featured offerings include email service Gmail, photo-sharing tool Picasa and Google Maps, all backed by the tagline "the web is what you make of it."

One execution centres upon Chrome and video platform YouTube, and how they aided the "It Gets Better Project", which seeks to support gay teens.

Research group StatCounter estimates Chrome holds an 18% share of its category at present, improving on 8% a year ago.

Internet Explorer, Microsoft's long-standing market leader, takes 45%, although this total has dipped from 53% on an annual basis.

Google also lags behind Firefox, Mozilla's open-source alternative, which is responsible for 30% of the sector.

However, Google thinks Chrome could strengthen its main revenue channel, online search, where it claims a share topping 60%, beating the 13% generated by Microsoft's Bing, per comScore.

"As people look for more cool and more interesting things on the web, our business grows," Andy Berndt, vice president of Google's Creative Lab, told the New York Times.

Google's ads adopt a simplified technique, focusing on the screen as perceived by the person utilising each application.

"We try to get rid of everything but the user and the tools and let you feel what is happening there, without a lot of commentary from Google itself," Berndt said.

Such an approach may be preferable given Google has discovered consumers are typically not aware of which browser they employ, or of the further options available.

"The browser's probably the most important piece of software on anyone's computer, but a lot of people, the people we're targeting with these TV spots, don't know what a browser is," Robert Wong, creative director of the Google Creative Lab, argued.

The campaign's online ads more directly encourage people to "make an observation", "make a declaration" and "make yourself heard" by downloading Chrome.

Chrome has 120m daily users worldwide at present, and believes the "Omnibox" search bar contained in the bar above web pages stimulates higher usage levels.

"You can expect us to continue to drive Chrome strategically, because it has not just a Chrome-specific benefit for us, but it also impacts many of our other products that work as part of Chrome," said Nikesh Arora, Google's chief business officer.

"We found that marketing very often ends up with an equivalent or better ROI than us having to go do partnership deals."

Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, suggested the potential advantages to Google of achieving such a goal are clear.

"The Chrome browser does have this tie-in to Google," he said. "If you're installing it, there's a much greater chance that you're going to end up using Google and staying with Google."

Less positively, David B Yoffie, professor of international business administration at the Harvard Business School, warned it would be difficult to break current behaviour patterns among netizens.

"Microsoft does adequately well for the vast majority of consumers," he said.

"The problem for both Firefox and Chrome is how are they going to convince customers that they have a significantly better product, worth the hassle of actually going and downloading something that's new and different."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by Warc staff