Finalement, Our Long-Awaited Take on Google's Super Bowl Ad

Sergey and Co. Scrounge Up Some Change for a Charm Offensive

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For reasons explained elsewhere in this issue, AdReview never saw the Super Bowl. We did see almost all of the commercials beforehand, however, having received most from willing advertisers and extracted some, like wisdom teeth, from others.


Marketer: Google
Agency: Google Creative Lab, New York
The latter process, involving a signed affidavit pledging silence till after the game, is equal parts infuriating and hilarious -- as if a) we'd break our word over anyone's stupid TV commercial, b) the public were champing at the bit to see what Motorola or Boost Mobile or whatever has produced, and c) competitors would somehow turn their marketing plans upside down if AdReview were, against all self-interest, to let the cat out of the bag.

Note to the Leading National Advertisers: Get over yourselves.

Anyway, though Ad Age's tenacious reporters annually ferret out almost the entire Super Bowl ad roster, every now one escapes our scrutiny. This year it was Google.

Perhaps you've heard of the company. It's the Starbucks of dot-coms. They not only dominate the world of online search, they also have an operating system, a phone, a satellite and street-level map of your street, YouTube, a wireless network, an instant translator, an MRI center, a cattle feedlot, a hollowed-out volcano, a space program, a strategic stockpile of stem cells and the patent for candy corn. Google's goals for 2010 are to slow the growth of Microsoft's Bing search engine and to acquire, for cash and stock, Asia.

All of which is to say, whereas once upon a time IBM could be characterized as the fearsome, omnipotent, info-dominating tyrant of the digital age, and then Microsoft, now -- in the role of Big Brother -- there is only Google.

Sure, the corporate motto is "Don't Be Evil," but no institution so vast, ambitious and powerful can long avoid public (and governmental) suspicion. Among those to characterize Google as a bunch of bullies and thieves are Rupert Murdoch and, whaddyacallit ... France. The public cannot be far behind.

And so, apparently Sergey Brin and friends came up with two or three million dollars -- which they can accomplish by cleaning the lint trap -- and used last Sunday's big game to mount a charm offensive.

Naturally, like everything else these people do, it was perfect.

We seriously doubt the ad -- a simple POV montage of internet searches by an unseen guy -- was intended to demonstrate the comparative ease and utility of the Google search engine. Googling is nearly a universal experience, and (notwithstanding Bing's mild disrespect) isn't itself the subject of much grumbling worldwide. No, this was merely an exercise in storytelling. And a lovely, romantic one at that, told, to a lilting piano accompaniment, via a succession of search terms:

"study abroad," "paris france," "cafés near the louvre," "translate tu es trés mignon" [result: "You're very cute"], impress a French girl," "chocolate shops," "paris ... "

And so on, through courtship, marriage and the instructions for assembling a crib. You can imagine how women reacted to this. If they didn't well up with tears, surely they clutched their chests and sighed, "Aaaaawww." Men, too, by the way. Where AdReview spent the week, it was all anyone wanted to talk about.

No fake newscasters thrusting out their boobs, no houses built with beer cans, no one being tackled or strangled. Just a simple narrative, a few sound effects and a computer monitor to remind 100 million people by what various means Google has become an indispensable part of their lives.

And so sweet! How could you ever distrust such a company?

Of course, the answer to that is "Just wait." But never mind. For the moment, thanks to the magic of (non-search) advertising, the pressure is off.

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