Google’s new Chrome billboard ads: Fast thinking on a slow medium

Educating non-technical people about Chrome may be the basic strategy

Google's new Chrome billboard ads arrive at Sydney train stations - swipe at male cooking abilities and all

Google's new Chrome billboard ads arrive at Sydney train stations - swipe at male cooking abilities and all

Google has stepped up its “Chrome browser is fast” marketing campaign with a new direction – plain old printed billboards hoisted around Sydney train stations.

A couple of years ago Google made news with some TV ads introducing its new Chrome browser.

So far they haven’t been aired in Australia yet as we’ve only been treated to banner ads (including video) on Web sites, but the billboards are making a splash at train stations from this week.

The billboard reads:


Followed by “Download Chrome. The fast browser by Google.”

A tad sexist perhaps, so I won’t begin to ponder the uproar the shiny new ads would have generated if its focal pronoun was “she”.

Perhaps that would have been really smart marketing. The media would have run riot giving Chrome even more (albeit negative) publicity.

Sydney isn’t the first city to feature Chrome browser billboards with London and Paris setting precedents.

Google Australia’s head of consumer marketing, Gabi Conlon, told TechWorld the campaign is aiming to get Aussies thinking about how the Web could be better and faster for them.

“So over the next couple of weeks we hope to inspire commuters in Melbourne and Sydney to try Chrome, the fast browser from Google, as they get online that day," Conlon said.

Early last year Reuters reported the ads were timed to raise awareness of the “browser ballot” in which the European Union (EU) mandated users had to chose their Web browser instead of the default Internet Explorer on PCs.

There’s no such legal wrangle here in Australia, so Google’s motives are different. With the results of the EU experience behind it, perhaps Google is simply expanding a successful marketing campaign to another region.

How do you judge the success of display advertising? It isn't as easy as digesting Web analytics for click-throughs, but if you look at the rise of mass-market consumer brands for things like drinks, mobile services and cars, the most successful have all had good display advertising strategies.

Many a marketing director has told me how much “easier” business-to-consumer (or "B2C") marketing is compared with that for business-to-business (B2B) products and services.

It looks as though Google wants to break free from the Web and advertise its browser to people who spend most of their lives offline. In that sense, it makes for a smart strategy.

Advertising Chrome to technical people is akin to preaching to the choir – or at least it would be a way of reminding people what they are already aware of.

On the other hand if you walked along the platform of any Sydney train station and asked 10 people the question: “What is Google Chrome?” How many correct responses do you think you would get?

Now everyday people will be informed about Google Chrome – even if it might result in a dispute with a loved one.

It goes to show how a purely digital marketing company like Google can still see the intangible value of good old display advertising.

It isn't the first time a typically 'techie' company has taken a crack at the mainstream - VMware and select Cloud providers have been known to use ads on buses in Australian business districts as a way of expanding their target market.

If you believe Google then, Chrome is the world’s fastest browser, but it nevertheless is gaining something from the world’s oldest form of advertising.

Wanted: as many Web surfers as possible
Reward: a free, fast Web browser

Now let’s wait and see if Microsoft follows suit with some IE billboards of its own.

Follow Rodney Gedda on Twitter: @rodneygedda

Follow TechWorld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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