After Google Bowl 2010, What Next?

Advertising the Virtues of Text Won't Be Enough to Stay Dominant

By Published on .

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
Google's first foray into the world of televised marketing has been the talk of the town since its appearance. The "Parisian Love" spot on Super Bowl Sunday painted a pastoral scene portraying the soul of a searcher. However, if Google wants to keep the number one spot in search minds, it will have to get a much bigger brush.

"Search on" provided a nearly episodic profile of a directive searcher struck by Cupid's arrow in a series of stream of consciousness queries. Though it was cute, funny at times and bore witness to the idea that search is the barometer of human behavior, the ad failed to strike the money-making mindshare chord I was seeking.

The next generation of advertising for search on the first screen and elsewhere will have to evolve. The love affair with text has been over for some time, and competing for search mindshare will require just a bit more than typing and clicking.

Episodic intent
The Google spot's suggested searches illustrated the consuming public's thirst for knowledge of all types. Phrase suggestions in the "how to" search included "how to get pregnant." It's interesting that depicting how other people search is proving to be a timeless giggle gift. If I hadn't spent the last decade studying the best and worst human queries in the search box, I may have been surprised by the consuming public's lack of familiarity with basic biological mechanics.

Still, with all the apparent positive and provocative aspects of Google's first venture in television, the ad was left wanting in more than a few areas. Where was the illustration of Google's product-offering diversity? The ongoing challenge big search has for its shareholders lies in the ability to translate directive search revenue into a more balanced portfolio of revenue drivers.

From a product showcase perspective, search results included a heavy emphasis on maps and geographically relevant search, but what about Google's billion-dollar display business?

Bland just isn't vibrant
If television is about awareness, I'm fairly certain Google missed the point. If aliens landed on earth, along with sorting out how to buckle and unbuckle a seat belt, it should only take about nine seconds to figure out how to conduct a text search.

Where was love-struck's use of anything mobile? Could he have synced his calendar with flight information? Or clicked on a video, pulled in some Gmail and shopped for something delicate as he continued his one-minute journey?

Instead of a creatively bankrupt text venture, love-struck searcher's activities could have illustrated some of the advanced and powerful capabilities Google brings to the world with telecom, document management and calendars.

Heaven forbid an ad for a search engine should depict a searcher acknowledging much less clicking on an advertisement. Isn't that what search engines do to make money? Popular research going back about a decade indicates the average searcher can't tell the difference between a paid ad and an unpaid one, so I say roll the creative dice.

The ongoing finger-pointing saga between Google and Microsoft can be used to Google's advantage as it explores awareness-building. As each side continues to claim the other has an unfair monopoly and exclusionary business practices, they should be illustrating strengths while avoiding the touchy points like operating systems and how everyone seems to use only one search engine.

Simple is complicated
People want to make their increasingly diverse lives simpler, and they want technology to help them do it. Often, technology serves to complicate. Perhaps ironically, Bing's creative addresses the issue of search's failure as a basic utility. Few have yet addressed the paradoxical effect search has had on its intended mission of simplifying and informing the consuming public the way Bing's campaign does.

Then again, comparing Microsoft's cross-channel and experiential Bing creative focus to the Google angle of utility over creativity is like comparing the rebirth of Ford as a creative powerhouse to Toyota's battle with integrity. Microsoft has traditional media covered with a blanket. Television and print companions like this month's Esquire insert showcase the possibilities of function.

Esquire's "Style" section is introduced with the prototypical busy professional. In one page, "Joe" searches opinions, finds images and uses local search. If one is to expand products and build awareness of new technologies, history's lessons must be learned. You can't just put it out there and hope; you have spell out just how great the audience's life could be with your technology.

Do more, get more
Naturally, with the short amount of time to deliver the best attributes of brand a 60-second spot offers, there will be limitations. But spare change does not a creative ad campaign make. Traditional advertising should be more than just a fun thing to do with an extra $2.5 million. I expect more from a company that is so good at selling advertising and preaching integration. Perhaps as love-struck searcher continues to discover how to operate the Google on the computing appliance, he can learn to do a bit more with search. Most of us have been around long enough to remember when Yahoo, MySpace and Friendster were number one. Another great history lesson in the connected digital world is you have to work extra hard to keep that number one spot or suffer the consequences.

Kevin M. Ryan is CEO of the strategic consulting and project management firm Motivity Marketing. He tweets at @KevinMRyan.
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