Yes, Google’s surprise Super Bowl ad was a great one, especially given the garbage it was competing with. But go back and watch it to see if you can spot the following:
Search/PPC: The person in the ad never saw or clicked on a paid ad, which is how Google makes 90%+ of its $23 billion.
Customer Service: The ad didn’t talk about Google’s exemplary customer service.
Product Quality: Google didn’t mention it could give Toyota a run for its money. Good thing a sticky pedal on the Internet can’t kill you.
Google’s year-over-year growth has gone from 56% to 29% to 8% the last three years. The recession is masking a secular trend, which is that the heady days of infinite growth in PPC are behind us. People will be amazed in a couple years – “what the hell happened to paid clicks?” More on that in a later post.
Keep in mind too, as we think about search marketing growth: the portion of Google’s revenues from international markets is less than it was two years ago.
Net: This TV spot wasn’t about increasing awareness of Google’s search engine, as many know-nothing bloggers have written. It is focused on showing the world how innovative Google is, “so won’t you please use all our other products?”
The only thing exemplary about Google’s customer service is how bad it is. Nonexistent, really. The stories are legendary, and have hurt the company more than it will admit for things like Checkout (see example here) and its new phone (see example here).
You can get away with bad customer service when you have 70% market share. But it’s not a big enough umbrella going forward, because Google needs to innovate (see “Search” above) and it needs to do it better (see below).
Google is in an industry where the quality bar has been set by Microsoft. Enough said. I only need to point out the launch of Google Buzz, and I can rest my case: Facebook-like default opt-IN privacy settings, no launch communications to current Gmail users (shit, you could have warned us with, um, an EMAIL), and a software bug in the auto-download that rendered Gmail useless for users who had their offline Gmail set to “on.”
Google’s new products, now and forever, will continue to focus on advertising. And with a forward P/E near 20, it needs a lot of them. When you combine its prior track record of bugs and its recent announcement to run fat broadband pipes into our homes…well, it should strike fear in the heart of every privacy advocate breathing.
It was a great TV spot, indeed. Google is ready for its close-up.