Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why the best Google ad is not the one you saw

I have never written about advertising and marketing on this blog. Since my day job involves an overdose of both, I try not to delve on those topics outside office. But the excitement over the new Google ad became so much that I am now scared they will revoke my diploma if I don’t write on it.
For the benefit of Mr Van Winkle, here is the ad.

This ad got 5 million views in the week since it launched. To give you a perspective, the official Ram-Leela trailer got 7.7 million views in two months. The ad was also the subject of hectic discussions on authenticity of the Lahori accent of the characters and #AlternateGoogleAd was a hilarious rage on Twitter. In terms of emotional impact, it was a triumph. 

My interest in the ad was somewhat academic (and prosaic). Like any real-life Marketing Manager, my first question is usually: “Objective kya hain?” That is, what did the ad set out to do?
You see, whatever I recall from my Marketing classes from fifteen years back is that advertising is supposed to bring about a change. A change in action (“go out and buy Axe”) or thought (“Hitting women is a bad idea”).
I am unclear as to what the objective of this ad is. Get people to use (more) Google? Get them to check flight timings and weather on Google? Think Google is a cool brand? Love Google?
There was an outpouring of love for Google after the ad but the love was always there. This ad just provided an occasion to demonstrate it. Purely from a business point of view (and that should be done because Google’s business in India is still fledgling compared to, say, Unilever’s), is just a show-your-love ad justified?  

People who are on the ‘net use Google. This is not restricted to young people only. Working professionals of a wide age group – because they have access – use and are now familiar with the ‘net and Google.
The only group of people who are somewhat less familiar with Google are older people and women. For the former, it is a question of familiarity since they spent a large part of their lives without knowing about computers. For women in a male-dominated society, it is a matter of access.

This begs the question why did the ad not show the old grandpas doing on Google what their grandchildren were doing. Grandfather remembers childhood friend in Lahore, goes on Google, locates him, calls his grandson and gets him over. I am sure O&M would have figured out a way to keep some surprise element for the emotional high at the end.
Incidentally, a Vodafone ad showed how their 3G internet services are ‘made for the young’.

Just showing two youngsters using lots of Google services was somewhat obvious, I thought. Of course, the huge positive outburst was a great win for the brand but I doubt if people started using Google more after this ad.
Even the shorter follow-up ads showed the grandfathers as helpless Luddites who depended on someone else using Google to answer their questions. Again, a wasted opportunity – in my humble opinion.

Google has always focused on increasing the penetration of internet usage. For example, it organises an annual shopping festival – Great Online Shopping Festival (GOSF) – where the stated aim is to get people to start shopping online. Google is not into e-commerce but it does GOSF because it has figured out that if people spend more time (and money) online, they are more likely to click on ads and if they click on more ads, Google will make more money.
Wonder why they didn't follow the same principle for their 'brand campaign'? 

Which brings me to a brilliant Google initiative that – I hope – you will hear a lot of.
Helping Women Go Online (HWGO) is a guide for women to start using the ‘net. It starts from using a computer and goes on email, chatting, watching videos and all sorts of things we take for granted but our mothers are in need of. They even have a helpline number, for those who feel comfortable talking.
And how will they promote HWGO?
Through ads – which will actually help people change what they think (“Internet has tons of useful stuff and is very easy to use”) and do (“Let me log on”). These ads, I believe, will actually go some way in changing the internet landscape of India. 
And that is something I expect Google to do and leave Partition stories to MS Sathyu. (Oh wait...)

Watch the ads here, here and here

These ads don’t have the emotional kick of an India-Pakistan reunion but I recognised my mother in one of them. Didn’t you? 
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