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5/4/2011
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Google Advertises Chrome On TV

The Web browser gets to star on television as the Internet search giant looks beyond the Web to promote Chrome.

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Google has launched new ad campaign on television to promote its Chrome browser as a window to the Web. The 90-second ad, titled Dear Sophie, began running in the U.S. on Tuesday evening. The commercial arrives a week before Google's annual developer conference, where Google is expected to provide an update on the status of its browser-based Chrome operating system, which should be available on notebooks later this summer.

In contrast to its pitch to Internet users, which revolves around features--speed, simplicity, and security--Google is making an emotional appeal to TV viewers by framing Chrome as a way to make more of the Web.

The Chrome ad, available on the Google Chrome Channel on YouTube, depicts a father writing messages to his daughter from the day she's born through her childhood, using Gmail, Chrome, and other Google services in the process. It packs an emotional punch that echoes Subaru's well-known TV spot involving a father telling his daughter to drive safely, a conversation that starts with her in the driver's seat of a car as a toddler and concludes with her as a young adult ready to drive on her own.

"The Web is a powerful platform; people use it to do amazing things," a Google spokesperson explained in an email message. "We loved the messages and emotions in these films, which showcase Web heroes and their accomplishments--big and small, fun and serious--and wanted a way to share them both online and off."

While Google is promoting the Web as a platform, which it has been doing for years, this doesn't say much about why Chrome is needed to access the Web, particularly now that competing browsers have more or less caught up.

Google's rationale for creating Chrome has been to improve the Web experience. "We believe that in order to create a better Web experience, a new browser had to be built from the ground up--one that is speedy, simple, and more secure," Google's spokesperson added. "That is why we built Chrome. Ultimately, the better the browser experience the more people use the Web. That's great for our users and great for Google."

Mozilla's Firefox in 2004 took over Netscape's mission to improve the Web, when Microsoft's Internet Explorer had a global market share of more than 90%. And Google funded the effort through its payments for search traffic. But in 2008 Google recognized the strategic value of owning the browser and has since racked up a global market share of about 12%. Microsoft meanwhile has seen its browser market share decline to around 55% globally, according to NetApplication's statistics.

Chrome users are great for Google because, as Google SVP of commerce and local Jeff Huber put it in the company's Q1 2011 earnings conference call in April, "Chrome users are very valuable to Google." Huber said Google is investing in Chrome marketing and the payoff is worth it. "We have over 120 million daily users [of Chrome], over 40% of whom we added in the past year as a result of our marketing efforts," he said.

Think of Chrome as Google's channel on the Web, a place insulated from competition. "[E]verybody that uses Chrome is a guaranteed locked-in user for us in terms of having access to Google," explained CFO Patrick Pichette during the same call.

Google has distanced itself from Pichette's choice of words, calling his statement a misstatement. The notion of lock-in isn't really compatible with Google's defense against charges that it monopolizes the search business: "Competition is only a click away," is the way Google has put it.

Indeed, it's fair to say that Chrome does not imprison users--one can use competing browsers while Chrome is installed--but it does open a window onto the Web that's free of competitive distractions. And it creates a barrier to exit, in that habits keep users coming back to the same software rather than making the effort to change.

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