As Stuart Elliot advertising columnist for the New York Times, wrote on Sunday, many of Super Bowl XLIV’s commercials focused on the familiar, by providing Americans with a comforting sense of nostalgia during tough economic times. Viewers enjoyed fan favorites, from the majestic Budweiser (now InBev) Clydesdales to the wise-beyond-their-years E-Trade babies.
But one particular ad from an unlikely source, stood out from the classics for many audience members watching commercials during the third quarter: Google’s “Parisian Love” ad turned the familiar Google search page into an ad that had viewers doing double-takes, primarily because Google never advertises on TV (except for a few cable spots for its web browser chrome) and it had rarely done any brand advertising to consumers. During and after the game, the spot was widely, tweeted, blogged-about and re-posted on a variety of social media sites including facebook, twitter, and linkedin.
The ad was as simple as Googling “Google Super Bowl Ad.” Literally. Designed to show the power and user-friendliness of Google’s search engine, “Parisian Love” documented an American’s successful quest for love in Paris–as implied through the queries he typed into Google’s search bar. Viewers watched as phrases that ranged from “study abroad paris france,” to “impress a french girl,” to “churches in paris,” to “how to assemble a crib,” appeared in the search bar, bringing up pages of results. The searches demonstrated Google’s versatility by exhibiting its ability to recognize and correct incorrect spelling for search terms, as well as to transform entries such as “what are truffles” and “translate tu es trés mignon” into helpful results.
Though Google’s Ad may have taken viewers by surprise, it also likely seemed familiar to YouTube users. As Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote on Google’s official blog, “Parisian Love” began as part of a series of online videos Google created, and had actually been on YouTube for three months. So how did it end up on TV during the Super Bowl? “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,” Schmidt wrote.
For those who did not see the ad on YouTube before Sunday, tech blog readers and people who follow Schmidt (ericschmidt) on Twitter would have had access to some clues from the social media rumor mills. At 4:16 p.m. on Saturday, Schmidt tweeted, “Can’t wait to watch the Superbowl tomorrow. Be sure to watch the ads in the 3rd quarter (someone said “Hell has indeed frozen over).”
So it turns out that maybe the ad wasn’t so unpredictable or unfamiliar after all and viewers who discovered “Parisian Love” while watching the Super Bowl may have been some of the last people to find out about the ad–rather than some of the first. Perhaps this is a sign that social media sites like YouTube will expand their uses beyond generating buzz and awareness, and will begin to serve as testing grounds for ads that will pop up again in the near future. Who knows, maybe next Super Bowl we’ll all be able to expect the unexpected.