Google Offers Chrome to the TV Advertising Gods

While most of us have been yearning for a return to the 1990s-eraeconomy, an Internet company advertising its products on televisionwas not the sign we had in mind.

Yet that is what TV viewers who still watch commercials will get to seethis weekend, according to news accounts — and the advertiser is noneother than Web 2.0 giant Google.

The company is planning to advertiseChrome, the open source browser it launched last year, on television.

Pure Web 2.0?

The point of the advertising will be to compare Chrome’s speed andother attributes against established browsers — primarily InternetExplorer, but also Safari.

“I think what Google hopes to accomplish isattract people who are unhappy with Internet Explorer and aren’talready using Firefox,” Simeon Spearman, futurist with SocialTechnologies, told the E-Commerce Times. Chrome’s performance is similarto that of Firefox, he said — besides which, people who use Firefoxare probably already aware of and have tested Chrome.

The move may seem surprising to some who view Google as pure in itsembrace of all things Web 2.0. It would, according to this assumption,stick with placing ads on Web sites — which, after all, is its ownbusiness model.

However, the challenges Google is facing as it tries to make inroads inthe browser market are likely large enough that offline exposure isnecessary, Spearman said.

“That is life when you are pushing a Webbrowser without a convenient way to bundle it,” he remarked.

Apple leveraged iTunesto promote its Safari browser, for instance. Microsoft has its ownstoried history of bundling IE with other products, like Windows.

The fact that it is advertising on television is also indicative ofhow seriously Google is eying the browser market, Scott Testa, amarketing professor at St. Joseph’s University, told the E-Commerce Times.

Market Share Wars

Right now Chrome’s market share is minuscule, he noted, “but if Googleis buying television time, that must mean it views the browser marketas an important battleground.”

Of course, much would need to happen before Google could elbow IEaside. Chrome’s strength is in its speed and ability to jugglemultiple open tabs. It still has many glitches in its system, though.

Also, there are the usual privacy concerns when it comes to Google;with Chrome, they center on its OmniBox address and search barcombo, which can track user keystrokes.

For whatever reason, Chrome has rarely broken out of the 0.1 percentshare of browser users, according to online stats. Indeed, itspeak user share of 1.16 percent, according to NetApplications, dropped afterseveral months post-launch, when the early experimenters went back toother browsers.

So, while Google’s apparent hopes that Chrome will become a significantplayer in the browser market are far off, at best, they are not out ofthe realm of reasonable expectations.

Microsoft appears to havesimilar expectations or fears: It does not want the EuropeanCommission to require it to bundle Chrome with Windows, on the groundsthat it could give Google a monopoly over the Internet.

TV Still a Force

Finally, the advertising play is indicative of the persistent strength of television advertising, which has suffered a number of body blows of late, from the recession to the increasing availability of a myriad of other forms of content delivery systems.

The Internet, of course, has played a major role in reversing the fortunes of TV, which is why Google’s Chrome advertising strategy is a rich irony, according to Rob Frankel, author of The Revenge of Brand X

“Don’t look now, but Google’s TV venture is a nod to the fact that TVis still the king of media,” he toldthe E-Commerce Times. “It’s faster, broader and way morepowerful than online; a fact that “gosh-we’re-so-hip” onlinefashionistas would rather play down.”

Clearly, Google knows that TV is the engine to drive its message thistime around, Frankel concluded.


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