Internet giant Google airs first Super Bowl commercial


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The New Orleans Saints weren’t the only ones feeling the love on Super Bowl Sunday.

Google took an expensive plunge into brand advertising on Sunday with its first Super Bowl ad, one of the few ads it has chosen to run on broadcast television rather than on its own network, YouTube.

During the third quarter, the Internet tech giant aired the minute-long ‘Parisian Love,’ a Valentine’s romance told in search queries, on the big screen. The spot, which wraps up with the slogan ‘search on,’ has been running on YouTube for more than three months. It was created by Google’s in-house agency.


CEO Eric Schmidt got the ball rolling by implying on Twitter that there would be a commercial. That got ‘em squawking. John Battelle, who has written one of the seminal books on Google, figured out the rest. Battelle recalled that Schmidt in 2006 called brand advertising ‘the last bastion of unaccountable spending in corporate America.’ At an estimated $3 million for a 30-second spot, Google was making a big statement. On YouTube, the spot had been seen about 1 million times. On Sunday, Google reached a Super Bowl audience of 100 million.

“We didn’t set out to do a Super Bowl ad or even a TV ad for search,” Schmidt said in a blog post Sunday. “Our goal was simply to create a series of short online videos about our products and our users, and how they interact. But we liked this video so much, and it’s had such a positive reaction on YouTube, that we decided to share it with a wider audience.”

Critics thought Google offered a welcome break from the frat-house humor of other commercials (although some did question airing a spot about a love affair in France to football fans). Said Entertainment Weekly: ‘Not sure how much — or, rather, how little — the ubiquitous search engine spent on this spot, but like a wildflower popping through a sidewalk crack, its simple charms stood out against its colder, bigger-budget competitors.’

Google is one of the world’s biggest advertising companies yet, until recently, it hadn’t advertised its brand in old-school ways even as competitors Yahoo and Microsoft took to the airwaves. It did promote its Chrome Web browser last year on television, and it has begun to experiment with print and billboards. The strategy hasn’t hurt. Google remains the dominant search engine, and its name has become a ubiquitous verb.

But Google’s public image has come under fire with its controversial plan to scan the world’s books and other strategies that raise privacy concerns. Perhaps Google decided it needed a few soundbites of sentimentality.

The Super Bowl ad comes as Google ramps up its effort to expand its foothold in display advertising. Analysts expect display advertising to add a little more than $1 billion to Google’s total sales this year. Google, which lags Yahoo in display advertising, bought two companies to storm the market: paying $1.65 billion for YouTube in 2005 and $3.1 billion for Doubleclick in 2007.


Could the Super Bowl ad signal more such brand advertising? Google likes to say that it eats its own dog food. Stay tuned.

-- Jessica Guynn