Marketing on Google: It’s Not Just Text Anymore
Just as Madison Avenue once helped convince consumers that orange juice is “not just for breakfast anymore,” Google is turning to Madison Avenue to help convince marketers that Google is not just for text advertisements in tiny type that appear adjacent to the results of searches on google.com.
Google is teaming up with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, an Omnicom Group agency known for offbeat creative work, on a project for one of the agency’s largest clients, the Saturn division of General Motors.
The project begins today with a test of a campaign for Saturn, bundling together several Google products and services like clickable video clips, the Google Earth satellite mapping tool and geographic finding of computer users.
Visitors to a variety of Web sites in six cities around the country that are home to 22 Saturn dealerships will see what look like typical banner ads for Aura, a new Saturn midsize sedan. Clicking on an ad will produce a view of the earth that zooms in on the dealership nearest to the computer user.
The doors to the virtual dealership fly open, revealing the general manager, who introduces a brief commercial about Aura. After the spot ends, the general manager returns, standing next to an Aura and offering choices that include spinning the car 360 degrees, inspecting its engine, printing a map with directions to the dealership and visiting the Web sites of Saturn (saturn.com) or the dealer.
The project is intended to stimulate demand for Aura test-drives with a twist: the dealerships will deliver the cars to the homes of consumers. The theme of the project is “Take the 250,000-mile test drive.”
Sellers of online advertising are seeking to persuade mainstream marketers to devote more of their ad dollars to new media. That mission took on added resonance this week when a Google competitor, Yahoo, disclosed an unexpected softening of ad sales in two major categories: automotive and financial services.
Of course, some forays into the online media go more smoothly than others.
For instance, the Air Force this week decided to take down a profile it put up last month on MySpace, the social networking Web site (myspace.com), partly because of concerns about inappropriate content that could be linked to the profile. The decision was reported by AirForceTimes.com.
Colonel Brian Madtes, strategic communications director for the Air Force recruiting service, said yesterday that the Air Force would probably continue to run banner ads on myspace.com but was unlikely to run profiles again. The profile was intended to generate interest among computer users ages 18 to 24 in new Air Force commercials created by GSD&M in Austin, Tex., also owned by Omnicom.
Google is known for its expertise in what is called search engine marketing, epitomized by the text ads that appear next to results from online searches. Google sells the rights to present the ads onscreen when computer users type in keywords.
Google now wants to call attention to its more elaborate types of online advertising, like click-to-play video, and to encourage marketers like General Motors to buy those as well.
“We’ve been out there meeting with a lot of agencies and clients so they understand at a brand level, at a creative level, at a media-planning level, how they can use the palette we have,” said Tim Armstrong, vice president for advertising sales at Google in Mountain View, Calif.
Out of those meetings came the idea to “let the creative brains at Goodby look across our suite of products and services and think about ways those could work for specific clients,” he added. In addition to General Motors, clients of Goodby, Silverstein include Anheuser-Busch, the California milk producers (“Got milk?”), Comcast, Emerald Nuts, Frito-Lay, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.
Rich Silverstein, co-chairman at Goodby, Silverstein, said the decision was made to have Saturn take part in the test because the local nature of its dealerships meant the brand would be a good guinea pig for the geo-targeting elements of the campaign.
“Google wants to prove it’s an effective way to market,” Mr. Silverstein said. “Saturn wants to sell Auras. And we want to show how we can tell good stories in a 21st-century way.
“The world doesn’t need another area to run a commercial; we’ve got plenty,” Mr. Silverstein said.
“I am so excited,” Mr. Silverstein, who is usually not given to hyperbole, said of the project. “I feel 10 years younger.”
The 22 Saturn dealers involved in the test are in Buffalo; Dallas (Irving is a suburb); Harrisburg, Pa.; Indianapolis; Las Vegas; and Raleigh, N.C. The six markets were chosen because they, and the dealerships, are among the best performers for Saturn.
“We have a key focus on digital this year,” said Dave Smidebush, marketing director at Saturn in Detroit, “and when Goodby approached us with this opportunity after Google approached them, we thought it was a very innovative initiative.
“Seventy percent of all new-car buyers go to the Web for information,” he added, “and the Google Earth technology takes you right through the dealer’s front door.”
The test will run for a month, Mr. Smidebush said, and after that Saturn executives will evaluate “how it drives traffic and how it affects sales, and then we’ll decide next steps from there.”
One possibility would be to roll out the project to the 25 largest markets, Mr. Smidebush said, and another would be to introduce it nationally. The project may be used, he added, to help Saturn bring out another new model, Outlook, a midsize sport utility planned for 2007.
Saturn is paying Google for the test, but Saturn and Google executives would not discuss the budget.
Teams of employees from Goodby, Silverstein visited all 22 dealerships to obtain the video clips of the stores and the general managers.
“Some were ready for prime time,” said Guy Seese, a creative director at Goodby, Silverstein. “Some nailed it in five takes.”
“One poor guy kept us after hours and did it in 22 takes,” he added.
The agency has ideas for Google projects for other clients, Mr. Seese said, declining to discuss them until they are further along.
By that time, there may be additional elements to incorporate into the projects, he added, because “Google is constantly coming up with new technologies.”