Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How to Cram Most of the Web Into One Super Bowl Ad–And Not Sell TVs

Yep, Google did indeed take out its first Super Bowl ad last night–a tweaked version of the “Search Stories” clip it has been showing on the Web for several months.

But Google also got a second promotion during last night’s game, though I’m guessing it didn’t pay for this one. An ad promoting Internet-connected TVs from Vizio featured a battery of viral video stars made famous via Google’s YouTube–without ever mentioning Google (GOOG) or YouTube by name.

The spot does give formal, if very fast, shoutouts to Web services like Facebook, Pandora, Twitter, Vudu, Yahoo (YHOO) and Yahoo’s Flickr. Oh. And Beyoncé.

Swing and a miss, in my humble amateur advertising critic’s opinion.

For one thing, anyone who’s going to recognize the likes of Tay Zonday and the Numma Numma guy knows that the whole “cramming all of YouTube’s stars into one bit” bit has been done by lots of people before, most notably South Park. Everyone else will just wonder who the fat kid and the skinny dude are.

The other problem with this ad is one common to many efforts to sell Internet-connected TVs: It doesn’t explain the most compelling use for these things.

Because you may not want to watch YouTube on your big screen (or to use Twitter or call up Pandora, etc.). But you may very well want to watch streaming movies and TV shows from services like Netflix (NFLX) and Vudu.

You’d have to squint very hard to see that the Vizio spot was showing a clip from “The Hangover,” though. And chances are that almost no one who saw the ad has heard of Vudu (hence its sale talks).

So there’d be no way for anyone to know that Internet-connected TVs make this stuff really easy. Too bad. If you see this stuff demoed in person, it’s really compelling–it gets close to the “500 channels” pitch we used to hear about in the early 90s, in the best possible way.

At some point in the next few years, there will be no need to pitch this, because the majority of new TVs sold will be Internet-connected. In the same way HD is now more or less standard on new sets.

But for now, this stuff is still a novelty. A good way to change this might be with an effective ad.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik