September 6, 2012 Cam Levack
Google’s ad copy read, “You know who needs haircut? People searching for a haircut. That’s why ads on Google work.”
The message isn’t surprising, considering the Google’s on-going criticism of the newspaper medium. What’s ironic is that it ran in two national newspapers, the Globe and Mail and National Post (print and online versions).
The ad raises a number of issues. Is Google using newspapers to attack newspapers? Is it trying to reach a segment of advertisers who rely on the newspaper medium and need convincing? Or is Google acknowledging there may actually be a place for newspaper advertising?
How about the newspaper’s point of view? Why should they accept a message that attacks their very being? Writer Steve Ladurantaye claimed it’s a victory for the medium, tweeting “An ad for Google ads in today’s Globe demonstrates the value of print ads, yes?”.
The BlogHerald defended the Globe and Mail’s decision to run an ad that competes with itself, lauding the publication’s “completely transparent and fair marketing standards”.
Engadget had a different take. It called the message “smug”, stating Google “has the whole irony thing down pat”.
Google’s disdain for newspapers is well documented. Earlier this year, Richard Gingras, Google’s head of news products, in a talk at Harvard, compared newspapers to old-fashioned Internet portals like Yahoo. Gigaom went on to comment, “Gingras doesn’t believe the vertical model of a newspaper makes sense going forward. He compares the metropolitan newspapers’ all-things to all-people product to content portals for specific communities. This strategy doesn’t make sense given the possibilities. Yahoo’s initial success was as a portal. But portals have disappeared online as consumers have learned to navigate the web on their own and found the niche sites they love.”
No matter how you look at it, the ad is already a success for Google in that it’s succeeded in getting people talking. Controversy may be difficult to measure, but there’s inherent value in “buzz”. As for the newspapers, they may just be glad to accept the money. Newspaper revenue is dropping, after all.
Cam Levak, Raven5 Ltd., Toronto, September 2012