What do you do when your viral growth starts to taper off? Advertise! That strategy has seemingly been working well for the Google Chrome web browser (now with a quarter of worldwide browser market share), so Google may as well give it a shot with Google+.
Google has released a trio of new TV commercials promoting its fledging social network, featuring Hangouts with celebrities like the Muppets as well as NBA announcers, Bill Walton, Kenny Smith, Steve Kerr, Spero Dedes and Jon Barry. There’s also one of those heartstring-tugging promos showing Hangouts in action, with kids talking to grandma, a girl telling her friends she’s engaged, New Year’s Eve kisses and other such cheesiness, all complete with an Apple-esque background track.
The strategy to focus heavily on Google+ Hangouts in the new TV ads is a smart one. Google’s multi-person video chat tool, which allows up to 10 participants to “hang out” (for free), is probably the number one selling point for Google’s social network. And even if the first commercial is a bit treacley in its depiction of the feature (hey advertisers: enough with the Apple imitation in your TV ads!) it’s at least presenting an easy-to-grasp use case that will help educate mainstream users about Google+.
More importantly, the commercials demonstrate the one viable reason as to why you may want to try Google+ in the first place, given that much of the network is an engineer’s re-creation of Facebook: Hangouts.
Hangouts are cool.
The other two ads show off the Muppets (seeing a resurgence of cool themselves) and a goofy one featuring NBA announcers keeping up their craft during the strike by calling a home game…taking place on a driveway. It’s pretty funny (and would probably be a lot funnier to me if I actually watched sports, but hey, I get it).
Given that two of the three commercials involve celebs, it’s important to point out that celebrities’ use of Google+ Hangouts has not been without its own (minor) controversy. In fact, the Muppets themselves were at the center of that debate not so long ago, when they launched their first Google+ Hangout, promoted as a chance to “Hangout with the Muppets.” Sadly, there was no “hanging out” involved, only an ad for the Muppet movie. While still arguably more engaging than a YouTube video spot, Hangouts usage by brands is still very much a challenge for companies looking for the right way to connect with their audience.
I haven’t caught these commercials on air myself as I prefer pre-recorded TV, but some of our tipsters sent in the NBA one. (Thanks!) You can check them all out over on Google’s YouTube page.
A Google project headed by Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, Google+ is designed to be the social extension of Google. Its features focus on making online sharing easy for users. “Circles,” think social circles, akin to Facebook’s lists. “Sandbar,” a user-unifying toolbar. “Sparks,” a search engine for sharing content between users. “Messenger,” a group messaging app that allows users to share with certain “Circles.” “Hangouts,” group video chatting designed to allow up to 10 users video chat at once. Each Google+ user can replace his...