Google goes deep for the Super Bowl

Google scored big with its first-ever Super Bowl ad yesterday -- proving once again high tech's influence over Super Sunday

The big event has passed, and now it's time for Monday morning quarterbacking and second-guessing key decisions. I'm not talking about last night's Super Bowl -- I'm talking about the advertisements.

It's an enduring testament to the cunning of Madison Avenue that the commercials interrupting the event are a much bigger story than the event itself. For this, as for many things, you can credit (or blame) Apple, whose seminal "1984" Mac ad really upped the ante on what a Super Bowl commercial should and could do.

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Super Bowl ads changed again in the late '90s thanks to high tech, as the dot-commers started an arms race to see who could lower the bar on tastelessness. The peak (or nadir) for me: Cyberian Outpost's 1998 ad where it fired gerbils out of a cannon against a brick wall. (Like the gerbils, and most of the other dot-coms that advertised in those heady years also went splat!)

Now the contest is to see who can create an ad that's so out of bounds it gets banned by the network before it even reaches the air -- thus ensuring tens of thousands of views on YouTube while saving millions of dollars in airtime. (The feral snarks at eSarcasm have rounded up some of the better Super Bowl ads the networks didn't want you to see.)

The biggest news in the geekosphere, though, is the buzz over Google's first-ever Super Bowl ad. Titled "Parisian Love" (though a more accurate title would be "How to date, marry, and impregnate a French chick while never leaving your computer"), it's a classy piece of work that shows the progression of a courtship from the initial blush of romance through 3 a.m. feedings, as told through Google searches. Here it is, in case you missed it:

As CEO Eric Schmidt points out in a terse blog post, that ad's been running on YouTube for three months, but "we liked this video so much, and it's had such a positive reaction on YouTube, that we decided to share it with a wider audience."

Translation: We're in a public relations war with Apple and Microsoft, so we're going to start spending the billions we've got stashed in our sock drawer on big TV ad buys. Google made at least six other "search stories" ads; look for more of those coming to a flat screen near you.

Interestingly, Google managed to find search terms that did not suffer from CSACC (completely surreal auto-completion complex) in which random phrases appear below the search window as you start typing search terms. Like "Steve Jobs is your new bicycle" and "Why is there a dead Pakistani on my couch?" I'd bet $50 Google deliberately cleaned up the auto-completes on the terms they used in those spots.

By and large, the Google ad clicked with users on Twitter, across the blogosphere, and in the offices of Wired Magazine, where they strapped electrodes to plucky volunteers and measured their biometric responses to each ad.

Still, the ad that got my heart racing was for Motorola's MotoBlur phones: Megan Fox takes a picture of herself in the bathtub [video], posts it online via her Android phone (yet another Google ad, of sorts), and brings the entire U.S. telecommunications infrastructure to a screeching halt. Yep, that sounds about right.

Oh, and congratulations to the New Orleans Saints and their fans. They've suffered from ineptitude and failure for 42 years -- longer even than Windows users. They deserve some good news for a change.

What was your favorite Super Bowl ad? Which ones did you hate? Do these ads have any impact on your life at all? If you're not too hungover, post your thoughts below or email me:

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