Google Tries Viral Campaign to Goose Interest in Chrome

Pushes Its New Web Browser With 11 YouTube Videos After Low-Key Rollout

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NEW YORK ( -- Why would Google take on Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla in the web-browser war and not try to win it? That question has been asked since Google ambled into the Safari-Explorer-Firefox derby last fall with its own entry called Chrome, but took a remarkably low-key approach to marketing it.

Well, Google is about to turn up the heat, a little. The search giant is releasing 11 short films on YouTube today that extol Chrome's various virtues, in hopes it can turn them into the kind of viral hits YouTube is famous for. (It doesn't hurt that Google owns YouTube.)

The videos take pains not to mention or to directly attack the competition; rather, their goal is to get people to start thinking about what they want out of an appliance most thinks works just fine.

'Featured videos'
Initially, the videos will get promotion as "featured videos" on YouTube's home page, but Google may combine that with a media buy across the content network that would see the videos placed as display ads across the web. Tagline: a new way to get online.

"There's a teeny group of people who obsess and care browsers, but most people don't really think about it," said Google Creative Director Robert Wong. "But imagine if a browser was a car and people didn't know what they were driving or that they had a choice?"

The videos are Google's latest effort to market Chrome, which has been limited largely to keyword and display ads on Google's ad network, a download button on YouTube and for a few days after its launch a link on Google's search page. But after a flurry of early-adopters, market share for Chrome has settled at 1.23% compared to Explorer's 66.8%, Firefox's 22% and Safari's 8.2% according to Net Applications.

Adoption has been abysmal largely because Google hasn't promoted the software or signed any expensive deals to have PCs shipped with Chrome pre-installed (which reports say it has considered). Google also hasn't yet released a Mac version, eliminating a small but potentially enthusiastic group of early adopters.

Marketing on the cheap
Google is still trying to market Chrome on the cheap: Budgets for the videos were $10,000, according to a person who bid on the project. In using YouTube to market Chrome, Google is using the video service in much the same way mass marketers tend to, as an opportunity for free, earned publicity rather than a medium on which to purchase advertising.

The videos were produced by a diverse array of designers, illustrators and mostly small creative shops such as Motion Theory, Go Robot and Hunter Gatherer. Christoph Niemann, a frequent illustrator for The New Yorker and the New York Times, created an animated short called "You and Your Browser," which depicts the difference between a "Bad Browser!" and the various attributes (speed, power, sophistication) of a "Good Browser."

The campaign is similar to Chrome Experiments, a site launched in March where Google commissioned web designers to create web pages and applications that take advantage of the speed of the browser.

Google got into the browser business as a defensive move: All of its products and services from search to e-mail to YouTube are experienced through a browser, software that Google does not control. By launching an open-source browser, Google can push development in the space, even if it never wins in market share. A video of Google engineers explaining the strategy has been viewed nearly 1 million times on YouTube.

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