Google Puts Search in the SuperBowl with Google Home Ad

Whether you were delighted or devastated by the Patriots’ SuperBowl comeback, it was hard to ignore the latest tech trends appearing around the Big Game. Lady Gaga demonstrated that drones are the new fireworks. H&R Block grabbed some AI cool by way of IBM’s Watson, FOX pushed a Samsung Gear VR tie-in for the latest 24 series and Hyundai pulled heartstrings by bringing military families together using live 360 degree video.

But from a search marketing perspective, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the annual big-hitters’ ad roll out was Google buying the first in-game spot of SuperBowl LI for a search product. That product being Google Home, the voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant.

The ad itself managed to tap into the trend for diversity, with what Vox called “a photogenic group of multiethnic friends that would make any network sitcom proud” and demo some basic product features, like turning lights on, turning music up, searching for recipes and, well, turning lights off again. All this delivered with the subtle backing of John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads. It was a little bland, but maybe that’s the point when you want people to invite an always-on, connected microphone into your living space.

The smart tagline for a smart home product? Home by You, Help by Google. It’s a nice way of positioning Home as offering a helping hand, not a heavy handed takeover, that fits nicely into the home you’ve already made for yourself.

But what does this all mean for search marketers? Well, the shift to mobile makes SERPS—the search engine results page—smaller. Smart home devices do away with “the page” all together.

Kiosk SEM manager Chris Burright notes that we want voice assistants to behave like futuristic humans and, “there is no place for assistants who return lists of answers in response to a question and require the user to select their own answer. For search results, first position will become the only position.” And for now, only organic results are offered. If you want to be the answer to someone’s Google Home query, authoritative content and smart SEO are going to matter more than ever.

From an SEM perspective, Business Insider analyst John Greenough notes that monetization of voice search and digital assistants is something Google will be working hard to get right, but “the voice search market is a completely foreign one, which will require a new way of thinking about how ads can be filtered into the environment without causing too much disruption to the user experience.”

In other words, we just don’t know how Google will monetize these handy household helpers, with which we’re supposed to have two way conversations. We don’t know how users are going to feel about assistants that might want to help someone sell you something.

Many of us already accept an HD ad billboard at home. But for digital assistants to succeed, they’re likely to feel more personal than a 60” 4K flatscreen from CostCo. More personal both in the info they offer us, and in tone. Amazon’s Alexa has already found fans who think of it as “one of the family”, and at the same time, Amazon’s apparently flirting with paid search.

Google does not need to rush into monetizing Home. It’s one way of getting you into the Google Assistant ecosystem, and keeping you there. Already, with one app, you can manage your Home and Chromecast devices. As these and other products lock together, it’s easy to imagine Home to find a movie for you to watch on your Chomecast, offering you a variety of YouTube-style ad supported/ad free viewing options, a coupon for popcorn and some recommendation-engine suggestions for similar, sponsored content you might enjoy.

As my colleague Chris points out, brand will have to think in more conversational terms—something we’re starting to see with the rise of branded chatbots, and something that will accelerate as we find ourselves talking to our devices way more than we type on them. Google’s Home ad may not have the same visceral impact that Apple’s 1984 ad did. But in terms of flying the flag for the future of search, this SuperBowl self-sell should not go unnoticed.

Does your SEM strategy feel more flag football than SuperBowl contender? Give Kiosk a call.