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Just How Popular Was Google's Super Bowl Ad, Anyway?

A Disconnect Between What Was Tweeted and What Was Watched

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Occasionally the disconnect between conversation on the web and, well, real conversation, becomes abundantly clear.

Take the Super Bowl. As you've no doubt heard, Google ran an ad in the third quarter, which wouldn't be remarkable except that Google never advertises on TV (except a few cable spots for its web browser Chrome last spring) and it had rarely done any brand advertising to consumers.

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The search giant's ad got a flurry of pre-game press after Federated Media chief John Battelle reported on his blog it was coming. During and after the game, the spot was widely discussed, tweeted, blogged-about and re-posted on all manner of digital water coolers from Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn.

Several measures of online buzz ranked Google's "Parisian Love" as one of the top spots during the Super Bowl. Google's spot came in at No. 2 in web buzz to Doritos, according to media-monitoring firm Radian6 and ad agency Mullen due to its high percentage of "positive tweets." Google's ad led Zeta Interactive's measure of online buzz, with positive blog posts running 98%.

And Nielsen's BuzzMetrics, a measure of internet chatter, also listed Google as the second most buzzed-about ad from the Super Bowl behind Doritos. On Hulu, whose audience probably correlates better with TV, sentiment was a little more mixed, with the ad coming in at No. 2 among most-liked but only No. 4 among most-watched.

And yet, when USA Today charted the reactions of 250 people who were actually watching the Super Bowl rather that tweeting on Twitter, updating Facebook statuses or posting on blogs, Google's ad came in at No. 43 of 63. Google's ad didn't make the top 10 most-watched on TiVo.

Now, we all know that whether someone liked or disliked a spot is a bad proxy for effectiveness, but at a time when news organizations such as CNN seriously poll Twitter for sentiment on important issues, it's important to remember that microblogging tools like Twitter are a subset -- and a skewed one --of conversations dominated by those who shout the loudest.

"You are talking about an echo chamber; it's like walking into a casino and everyone wants Google to win," said Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, which does marketing for Microsoft's Bing. But he thinks Google's spot won't fare as well outside of it. "It required a high degree of involvement to watch it through. The most accessible spots were the Doritos spots, and they're slapstick."

Pete Blackshaw, VP of Nielsen's Online Strategic Services, said the ad clearly appealed to a wired crowd, and thus no surprise it scored higher online than elsewhere. But that online popularity can start to wag the dog offline. "Wired voices tend to bleed over into popular or mainstream perceptions, especially given the degree to which 'earned media' fills search results," he said.

What ads did people really want to watch during the Super Bowl? And how did Google's "Parisian Love" really rate among people watching the Super Bowl? For that we'll have to wait until later today when Nielsen puts out minute-by-minute ratings for the commercials, along with an IAG study of what people actually remembered from the ads.

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