What's the darling of the Internet doing advertising on conventional television? Pitching its browser to the masses.
Google, the company whose name has literally become a verb in the world of online search (as in "to Google") wants the public to know it is more than search — it also offers an Internet browser, branded Chrome.
In its biggest offline campaign ever, according to the New York Times, Google is actively engaging in the browser wars, attempting to chip away at Microsoft's commanding lead.
Over the years Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser has been the de facto standard, largely because it comes pre-installed on so many PCs. But recently, other browsers with more enhanced features have made some headway and Internet Explorer's market share has slipped; it's down to around 45% usage this year from 53% last year, reports StatCounter, an online analytics firm.
Chrome, meanwhile, has gone from 8% market share last year to 18% today. (Firefox by Mozilla has 30% of the market and Apple's Safari has about 5%.) Chrome grew its user base by three times to 120 million users last year, according to Google.
But Google faces two fundamental challenges. The first is simply getting people to focus on the browser, which they often regard as built in to their computers. Robert Wong, creative director of the Google Creative Lab, told the New York Times, "The browser's probably the most important piece of software on anyone's computer, but a lot of the people, the people we're targeting with these TV spots, don't know what a browser is."
The second challenge is perception. Computer users usually look at Google as a search company and, maybe, an email provider, because of the company's Gmail product. They may not realize Google is an Internet gargantuan that, for example, owns YouTube and Picasa and offers a broad range of services and applications. So Chrome may not be on the typical computer user's radar screen.
Those two challenges in combination could mean an uphill battle for Google in the browser market. Harvard Business School professor and author David B. Yoffie told the Times, "Microsoft does adequately well for the vast majority of consumers. The problem for both Firefox and Chrome is how are they going to convince customers that they have a significantly better product, worth the hassle of actually going and downloading something that's new and different."
Interestingly, Google soft-sells Chrome in its new television ads, which run an unusually long 90 seconds.
"Dear Sophie," the first in the series (at top), depicts the classic consumer story of a dad who is documenting his daughter's milestones and moments from birth. He is shown using a variety of Google products, including Google search, Gmail, Picasa, and YouTube, to create an online scrapbook of sorts containing memorable moments. Only at the very end of the ad does the name and logo of Chrome appear.
This ad, and other 90-second spots in the series (such as one showing how the "It Gets Better" gay youth anti-bullying campaign spans the web) concentrate on users' interactions with Google products in similar fashion to the ad Google ran during the 2010 Super Bowl. That commercial showed, through a series of searches, how Google facilitated a love affair between an American exchange student and a Parisian woman.
The potential for Google is huge. Virtually every PC users some kind of browser, and if Google can convince users to switch to Chrome, it gets an added advantage — integration with the Google search engine.
Industry analyst Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, told the Times, "The Chrome browser does have this tie-in to Google. If you're installing it, there's a much greater chance that you're going to end up using Google and staying with Google."
Given the intense rivalry between Google's search engine and Bing, the search engine which just happens to be made by Microsoft, a "tie-in to Google" is exactly what the company is hoping for.