The August 2009 Google promotional effort using highway billboards to sell its enterprise applications is a guerilla-marketing campaign aimed at downtown workers in Boston, Chicago, Manhattan and San Francisco, according to AdWeek. Hopefully the outcome will be better than the TV-show-promotional effort by CNN in Boston in March 2007 that closed down the city in a bomb scare? But there's no doubt Google wants office workers in major cities to rise up and start a riot in protest against Microsoft Office.
Note that the suburbs are not involved, according to AdWeek, the bible of such things (which quoted fellow IT Business Edge blogger Rob Enderle, by the way). This promotion is just aimed at hot, sweaty, summer-in-the-city, high-rise office workers.The intention is clearly to associate the crowded elevator, the rivulet down your spine and the steam coming up off the sidewalks with Microsoft. It's Bill Gates' fault you're stuck here and everyone else is at the beach.
For our southern hemisphere readers, remember that August is the slowest commuter traffic month of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere. This is especially true for the group that you would think Google wants to reach to promote its enterprise software: top executives. But, given the cities involved, the enterprise-application decision makers that Google needs to reach are all at the Vineyard, in the Hamptons, or on Mackinaw Island or the Monterrey Peninsula. And executives in these cities take the train or ride in their limos, anyway; they are not reading billboards.
So it's really not a classic advertising campaign aimed at the person that buys whatever you're selling (for the record, Google Apps are not freeware in the enterprise, unlike for consumers). Then who's the audience? Maybe it's the IT guys who more or less recommend enterprise software. I'm reminded of the story of how successful John Cunningham of Wang was launching the Wang word processor in the 1970s by targeting secretaries rather than the office managers responsible for buying typewriters.
But we all know IT guys go to work before dawn and come home in the middle of the night. They're too tired to read billboards.
So what Google wants is for the stressed-out office workers left in the city in August to wage a velvet revolution in the office by choosing Gmail and other Google Apps over Word and Excel and PowerPoint and Exchange. When you go to the google.com page noted in the advertisement (again, according to AdWeek) you can be eventually linked to the 'go Google' page that tells you:
I am not sure why the 'go Google' page was not advertised directly or why the link was not more obvious. Maybe I'm wrong about my theory. Maybe Google just wants you to read all of the blog posts and news articles about the Goggle Apps billboards?