Google Chrome TV Ads Tug at the Heartstrings

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Google Chrome has gone primetime, with a pair of 90-second television ads to promote the Web browser.

Both Chrome ads are more emotional than educational. One, called "Dear Sophie," follows the growth of a baby girl through the eyes of her father, who's keeping a scrapbook in Gmail. The other is Google's take on It Gets Better, a user-generated video project intended to inspire gay teens. The commercials, which aired during "One Tree Hill" and "Glee" on Tuesday evening, amount to Google's biggest offline ad campaign ever, the New York Times reports.

Why bet big on advertising a free Web browser? Because the more people who browse the Web, the more likely they are to use Google products. And if they're using Chrome, they'll be searching with Google by default. "On a tactical basis, everybody that uses Chrome is a guaranteed locked-in user for us in terms of having access to Google," Patrick Pichette, the company's chief financial officer, said in a conference call last month.

The problem is that many people can't tell Chrome from Internet Explorer from Firefox. For proof, watch Google's Times Square video interviews and be depressed. Or take it from Robert Wong, creative director of the Google Creative Lab, who told the Times that "a lot of people, the people we're targeting with these TV spots, don't know what a browser is."

With that in mind, I'm a bit surprised at the nature of these ads. They seem to be advertising Google services rather than specific benefits of Chrome, such as the Chrome Web Store, Instant search and the omnibox for searches and URLs. There's no obvious benefit to using Gmail or YouTube in Chrome instead of Internet Explorer, so it's not clear what Google is trying to accomplish by advertising those services in an ad for Chrome.

In online ads, Google has tried to be more direct. When Google showed off Chrome OS in November 2009, it released a straightforward video explanation of what browsers are, why Chrome is the best one (in Google's opinion) and why an operating system based on Chrome makes a lot of sense. If mainstream consumers are really clueless about browsers, and Google wants to educate them, this is the kind of ad they need to see. Tugging at heartstrings simply makes for better entertainment -- and warm, cozy feelings about Google.

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