Why Google Turned to Print Advertising

By {grow} Community Member Mila Araujo

Lauren Indvik recently wrote a post on Mashable with the provocative headline “Google Buys Newspaper Ad to Show Why Newspaper Ads Don’t Work. Millions of Social Media advocates around the world probably rejoiced, thinking “Here’s the proof that Social (Marketing/Search) is the only way to go.” Was this Google’s “in your face” way of making a point to the print industry? Was the ad really supposed to show that print ads don’t work?

Wake Up!

Google’s ad ran in both the Canada Globe and Mail‘s print and digital editions, as well as in the National Post, the Globe‘s main competitor. Why would Google run this ad in print instead of trying and reach their core market online?  Maybe, if Google hasn’t reached the online market by now, they probably aren’t going to! There is a certain point of saturation. You can keep advertising to the people online, or you can get smart and expand your market to a new segment.  Everyone in the world is not on “social!”

Go to Where Your Clients Are.

Google made a smart splash by running that ad. They reinforced value to the socially minded marketing people who surely smiled as they saw the ad and they also got the attention of the people who need someone to explain to them “Why Google?”

Their approach was brilliant on two levels:

  • They provided a phone number for people to reach out and connect with them. How often do you see that when it comes to online services? Clearly targeting those who are still doing business the old fashioned way.
  • They posted a question in their ad that absolutely anyone could relate to. A good old fashioned haircut. Who doesn’t get that? By providing a common ground that any individual or business can understand and relate to, they create an opportunity for understanding in an area that most people are intimidated by. Google is for anybody.

The Evolution

Data from the Newspaper Association of America, newspaper advertising revenue dropped to a 60-year low in 2011.  Adjusted for inflation, the level was back to the 1950’s!

When the television was introduced in the 1950’s, many thought newspapers were set for extinction. But markets evolve and develop.   The next big thing will be social television.  As for newspapers, they may have to drop the number of printed copies, just like some of them dropped the evening edition in the 50’s – but they remain a reliable news source. Their online “circulation” is growing. They are evolving.

In fact, there will always be new channels to consider.  And the marketer must also be evolving and paying attention to what is happening with the people, rather than focusing on the shiny new toys. I say, bravo to Google for hitting print and focusing on the people strategy.

Go wherever your customers and prospects are, because they aren’t going to come to you.


mila araojoMila Araujo writes about Leadership, Social Media and Customer Service for several sites, including her Perspectives blog  which explores different angles and  ideas into understanding  social media and how to use it to drive business forward and build community. She is the producer of the 140 Conference Montreal.  Connect with her on Twitter @Milaspage

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  • This was smart. Google did a rope-a-dope. They knew it wasn’t going to get much pull in the newspaper. It got the real pull online: by blogggers posting it everywhere to put in their reasons for them doing it. In a way, the newspaper ad worked. The publicity was picked up online – where they truly aimed.

  • MorberMarketing

    As usual, you hit it on the head Mila! I love the “Go Where Your Clients Are”…just that alone is something many companies don’t understand. They struggle to drive people to their Facebook pages or follow them on Twitter when they’d be better off advertising their phone number in a few places where their customers already hang out.

    Thanks again Mila for always being so readable, insightful and spot on!

  • Thank you Jeannine! I thought it was a really interesting case, so many online marketers took one approach on it, but I think above all we always need to think about where can we expand our reach to get out message, I was glad to see it – especially the phone number! Thank you so much for your comment!

  • Hi Shanika, Thank you for your comment! It definitely got a lot of attention online 🙂

  • Yes, go where your customers are is critical and yet many folks really do not know where their customers are! They assume where their customers are from previous experiences. This is why metrics and data are so important in today’s integrated marketing. Having someone who is really good at digging deep to make sure you are not ignoring a segment of your market that is an unexpected place, is just smart business.

  • radiojaja

    google are clearly targeting smaller ‘classified’ type clients. In the UK they have been giving a free website and free advice on how to market online to these sorts of small customers.
    It is a genius move, in the UK Newspapers still account for around 30% of all ad spend, and a huge proportion of that is classified ads, people that dont spend big, but spend regularly and consistently
    great move by google to eat into the newspapers real ‘heartland’ the historic, habitual and regular tucked away in the back pages
    great piece! thanks

  • Someone had their thinking cap on when they proposed this idea to run a print ad! It would be interesting to know how well they reached the audience they were looking for! I hadn’t even realized they’d gone this route!

  • And subways in NYC, too – they’ve done some really great ads in the subways.

  • ddeborah weinstein

    It’s an age old maxim. Fish where the fish are! Spread news and info where your consumer is most likely to see and believe it. Our 2012 CCPRF survey showed Candians reply first on the legacy/traditional media reporting and analysis. No surpise there, especially when you consider that the majority of news shared on social originates in the mainstream. Nice work Mila. Good on you Mark for spotting a star!

  • You go, Google! I love this, since my start in the biz was copywriting for print and I know the value of a print message. Evolving is good, even when it means going back to the roots of advertising.

  • Cynthia Kahn

    Happy birthday! Great article. Common sense wins every time.

  • I think it’s great that you’ve shown not only that an INTEGRATED marketing mix is most effective, but you’ve also given reasons why. Some of us in the marketing industry do not use all of the channels at our disposal at times and, although Google is one of the larger companies out there, the concept by which they’ve formed this particular campaign can easily be adopted for a business of any size. Thanks for the insight, Mila!

  • Great read. It will interesting to see what kind of ROI they get from those ads. Happy Birthday Mila:)

  • Mila, this is a thought-provoking piece of writing. I’ve been reflecting on this exact issue as I begin serious work with clients who are from the traditional sector and using older forms of marketing. I love our social media in-crowd, my brilliant friends like you who are early adopters, savvy tech users, and educated marketers. However, I don’t like to forget that there are a lot of other people in the world doing excellent work who just don’t see across the digital divide. It’s great to see Google supporting traditional print ads while simultaneously giving the nod to the huge sea change they’ve been a part of in bringing business online.

    Thanks for your insights! I can’t wait to share this one.

  • trudi tapscott

    Thanks Mila. As always, really great points and insightful conclusions.

  • It’s integrated marketing at its finest…and a brilliant move on Google’s part, in my opinion.

    This is a great post, Mila! I liked your insights, especially about going where your customers go, and not getting distracted by the “shiny new toys.” Kudos to you for sharing your opinions.

  • Good points, Mila.
    When people talk about new media vs old media, it always makes me laugh. There is no “VS”. Both need to work together because they’re extensions of the same principles, aims and ethics. Journalists, for example, who have learned to evolve with the times still need to follow the same rules on Twitter that they had to in their newspapers.
    The medium may have evolved but the aim and function remains the same.

  • Even better, the subways in NYC usually do not have WiFi, so it builds up a latent demand 🙂 Most people are surfing on their phone as they walk out of the subway. I know I’ve scanned a QR code or two and then watched it load as I walked up the stairs…

  • It was a brilliant campaign on several levels. If you’re an average Joe and have been advertising in the newspaper then you have been suffering as readership drops. Google did a good job of highlighting why people should be making the switch to “Intent” advertising. It is focused on something people are specifically searching for at that moment. Vs. lining the bottom of a cat litter box or wrapping Christmas decorations or 3 day old fish… 🙂

  • Cross media is key. I loved the direct mail efforts Google started a few years ago and continue to do with their $100 introduction to Google Ad Words. We all say “fish where the fish are” and it looks like Google was trying to find more fish. Well done Google, and great article Mila!

  • Hi again, I logged in to show someone my comment on your post, Mila, and now I don’t see my own comment at all! Oops 🙂 So at the risk of double-posting, I just wanted to say that this really hit the mark for me. I’m working with clients who are not digital savvy- that’s why they hire us! So I think Google was really awesome for trying to bridge that divide. You’re really right that it’s important to go where the customers are, not just stay where we’re comfortable.

    You’re an inspiration to me, my dear. Keep up the great work!!

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  • Thanks Brew! It’s very true! Id forgotten about their direct mail. Google is touching people everywhere and who knows this probably plays a much larger role than what we are realizing! Strategic alliances with online retailers, print ads, what’s next radio 🙂 the wider your range the greater your reach!

  • Thank you Jenn! It’s definitely a balancing act for marketers to keep up with technology while still remembering the core. It makes me a little crazy when I hear the extremist social views – business people still have to respond to their clients and this means keeping in mind where their targets are. Some businesses can focus more online but others have to keep a strong presence everywhere!

  • Thank you Jackie! The biggest challenge is finding this balance! It gets even harder when you have clients that hear the buzz, and you have to justify the diversified approach – especially when their budgets are limited and the initial investment to get into social can seem steep. I think many think they should cut one medium and jump to another- its like being pulled in many directions and having no clue where to go. Fortunately there are knowledgable and balanced marketers out there who take it all into account! 🙂

  • Thanks Dave! Of we start to see them place ads in the classifieds for telephone operators to man their customer service number, I guess we will have an idea 🙂

  • You have to give them credit, Google surely has a brilliant marketing team and I think they are open minded enough to focus on reaching customers rather than simply staying in their own playground ! Brew also made a great comment drawing attention to their ongoing direct mail campaigns. They’re smart thinkers and a great example to use of people think they should completely drop out of other media when they go social!

  • Funny you should mention that Ric! I was just wondering if they are doing billboards and public transport. I’m a big fan of Google’s approach – send me one of the ads from the subway 🙂

  • Pleasure is mine, I’m so glad to spark all this great conversation! Thanks for taking the time to join the conversation!

  • Absolutely Rabab! Infact online sites for traditional media like newspapers are doing very well as they have embraced change, and readers trust their content as they have grown to rely on them as news sources with integrity !

  • Thats a very interesting point as well! The UK is very forward thinking in their online strategies and as marketers (from what I’ve seen) the UK’s firms have really been driving business using a good mix for years. In many instances what I see in their approaches especially in the insurance industry quite balanced and impressive! Thank you so much for joining the dialogue and contributing this perspective – great thinking!

  • Guest

    Very much so Michele, I think that when businesses choose a marketing agency it becomes very important for them to ask them what their take is in the media available and their approach. In a lot of the dialogue I’ve had with marketing firms about social media, many stay out of social because it’s not their specialty or interest. So what I see happening often, is two firms go into competition fior the clients marketing dollars and unfortunately if a business focuses too much on the cheapest price and the card that says “social media expert” they may find themselves in a very risky position. Regardless of the medium businesses have to protect themselves by taking smart strategic approaches – the best wayvo do that

  • I do apologize, there was a malfunction in the comment above with my Disqus – I really appreciate your insight Michele!

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  • Ruth Gray

    Very interesting! I learned a few things from this article about Google and print advertising and I am glad I took the time to read through this. Thanks! Here’s more on print advertising! http://smallbusiness.printplace.com/2012/10/13/print-and-advertising-where-its-headed/

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