Why the Google Chrome ads are about more than speed and functionality

BBH has delivered some more brilliant work on behalf of Google Chrome. Check out this behind-the-scenes video on the latest effort focused on speed:

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This is just the most recent in a line of spots and making-of videos with a deconstructionist motif. It’s an intriguing choice, using a sort of hand-crafted, DIY approach to demonstrate a most technical of utilities. Creatively I think BBH has done a fantastic job of showcasing the product in a compelling and unexpected way, but I think they’ve also done something quite clever from a strategic standpoint, and it’s about more than just pushing Google’s browser.

apple pc google chromeLast year Microsoft, finally tired of having sand kicked in its face by Apple, enlisted Crispin Porter + Bogusky to reposition itself as something a little more clever, a little looser, a little less, well, a little less the guy on the left. CP+B created some truly inspired wackiness, enlisting Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld in an effort to say, “Hey, us Windows folks can be creative too.” I liked the spots, as did Grant McCracken (sorry, I’d link but Grant’s site has lost much of its archives). The point being, Apple owns the creative community and Microsoft wasn’t going to just cede that to them anymore.

A look at Noah Brier’s BrandTags shows that indeed, people associate the word “Creative” heavily with Apple. Microsoft? More like “Boring” and “Sucks”. 

I think Apple is now being forced to fight the equivalent of a land war in Asia (something any student of European history – and the film Princess Bride – knows is a tough spot to be in) as Google, through these Chrome spots is also making a play for the “creatives.”

The question then becomes, why? It’s more than just about Safari v. Chrome. As Google expands into more and more areas of our digital life the “creatives” market becomes more intriguing as assuredly that market has grown significantly since Apple staked its claim with the boundary-busting 1984 ad. Back then “creatives” meant a handful of people at the top ad agencies. Now, thanks to the Internet, Social Media and the emergence of the DIY ethos, a huge swathe of people consider themselves to be “creatives,” and those people, increasingly, are looking to get their hands on a smart phone. Obviously there is a “shiny new toy” quality to Google’s Android OS and Nexus One handset, but these numbers show how quickly they are moving into a territory that, perception-wise, Apple owns:

google nexus one apple iphone

The Google Chrome spots, like the CP+B efforts on behalf of Microsoft, help change the perception of the Google brand. They are slowly evolving from “wicked smart search algorithm and online ad behemoth” to “creators of innovative software and hardware across multiple platforms.” The former is a tough thing to make shareable – something “creatives” crave. The latter is what moves the marketplace of ideas.

Here’s the final Google Chrome spots, just out now:

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How BBH humanized the browser

Lots of great creative out there. But sometimes you see something so distinctive, so arresting that you have to stop and reflect. Great creative isn’t creative for creative’s sake, it works to tell a story about the product in a way that both highlights the features and positions that brand in a way that distinguishes it, even in a category that people don’t normally think much about.

And so it was with the recent video vignettes created by BBH on behalf of the Google Chrome browser. If you haven’t watched them, watch them now:

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I know, right? Go ahead, watch them again.

Stunning. Again, for me transcends the merely clever. After watching these I didn’t just think, ‘Boy the folks at BBH sure are clever (though I did indeed think that).’ I thought: ‘Wow, I really want to try Google Chrome.” That’s really the only relevant and meaningful measuring stick of advertising isn’t it? Does it shift consumer thinking and behaviour. With this effort the answer is a resounding Mission Accomplished.

Ben Malbon, Managing Partner over at BBH Labs was kind enough to provide some insight on this ambitious project.

1. What was the inspiration for the Google Chrome campaign?

We took Google’s ingenuity & innovation as inspiration in developing the idea for these seven short films (& an intro). Everything was centered on demonstrating the benefits of Google Chrome as simply as possible.
The hero is the product. And so we celebrate how the product works, and the benefits it delivers, but in a “Googley” way. There’s a quirkiness to Google, a kind of geeky passion, that we also wanted to capture in how we brought this to life.

2. How did the ‘draw back the curtain’ / deconstructionist / tromp l’oeil / DIY creative concept come about?

Everyone’s tired of cliched technology ads. They don’t appear to be made for real people. What’s more, web browsers are hardly a high interest category; most people have no idea what they are, let alone how they work. (Ed. check out this video that Ben passed along that brings the issue into sharp relief)

We wanted a way of talking about a complex set of features and benefits that felt educational, but also delivered on entertainment and engagement.
We also wanted a creative way in that reflected the ingenuity and openness of Google. So we came up with the idea of handmade demonstrations.
Although we could clearly have cheated things visually in post-production, we wanted to create a feel of authenticity and hand-built. So every creation is built by hand and filmed in camera; no special effects are added. Even the music where the harpist is playing live on set.

3. The harp is inspired, how was that decision made?

The harpist was a last-minute decision but one that extends the handmade / ‘real’ feel that we were striving for in the films. For a start we wanted the music to feel part of not just the finished films, but the making of the films, the process itself. Secondly, we wanted something that was in many ways the opposite of the progressive techno that might more normally be the choice of backing music for a technology product launch.

When we found Jacqui (the harpist) we knew she’d do it brilliantly. She was on set with us for 3 whole days, which was highly unusual but very inspiring for the team. When we were doing the film with the mercury in it (Omnibox), everyone had to wear gasmasks on set; it certainly wasn’t something any of us had seen before, to see a harpist playing with a gasmask on.

4. It seems all the search engines (Yahoo!, Bing, Ask, Google) are trying to differentiate themselves right now, both in terms of offerings and brand. How do these web vignettes uniquely align with Google’s offerings (again, Chrome is a browser, not a search engine) and simultaneously distinguish it from the other search engines from a brand perspective?

Broswers are increasingly important in people’s lives because an increasing proportion of their lives are lived through them – social networking, news, finances, travel, photographs & film, entertainment. Google built Chrome, from scratch, because they believed that the user would benefit from a browser developed for today’s Internet. Many of the other browsers are evolved versions of browsers built for a very different Internet. For the geeks, there’s a great comic produced by Google that talks through what’s different and how they built it.

Here’s a behind the scenes video featuring Ben and the production crew:

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A big thanks to Ben for his time. Production credit goes to: BBH New York, BBH London & the team at Glue London, who worked with the Google team on the development of the strategy, creative and media. The Director was Aaron Duffy and the production company were 1st Avenue Machine in New York. Here’s the BBH Labs post on this effort.

For online video time isn’t a barrier, quality is

You hear a lot about the attention spans of consumers especially as it relates to online consumption habits. “Consumers won’t watch videos longer than 2 minutes, 37 seconds.” Or some such. “Twitter is so popular because it taps in to our short attention spans.”

I think these notions are patently false and are approaching the problem from the wrong direction. Consumers aren’t watching your long videos, not because they are long, but because they aren’t any good. Here’s a short film(note I don’t call it a commercial) for Johnnie Walker, made by BBH. Six minutes and 28 seconds of exceptional quality:

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That’s terrifically compelling filmmaking in support of a brand. Read the full story over at BBH Labs. This is such a departure from the “let’s make a viral video!”-mentality that drives things like the Cadbury Dancing Eyebrows, which, six months from now will have little to know relavance for that brand. But this Johnnie Walker video could be played 100 years from now, and it will still be a true representation of the brand.

As a soccer (football) fan, I often hear the complaint that soccer is boring. No, not inherently. Sure, there are boring games (we call those MLS matches), but a well played 1-0 or even 0-0 game can be extremely compelling. Similarly, was there anything boring about last week’s 15 inning Red Sox v. Yankees marathon? No, that was edge of your seat stuff.

Is making a two minute piece easier than making an eight minute one? Perhaps, but I’m not certain. I think quality takes as long as quality takes, and you can’t put pre-defined limits on what’s going to work. S0, rather than focus on length, focus on quality and the next time someone tells you that online videos have to be a certain length, tell them to Keep Walking.


Disclosure – I’ve worked on Johnnie Walker in the past, supporting their F1 and cricket sponsorships, and my agency, Taylor, has been a partner with Diageo for around 20 years. We had nothing to do with this film however.