If it starts to look like the things you typically see online are starting to spill over into Real Life, you're not imagining things. For one reason or another, Google has decided to launch an in-print and outdoor ad campaign to promote their Good to Know campaign, a mission to "help people stay safe on the Internet and manage the information they share online."
According to Ad Age, Google is running print ads for their Good to Know with USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Google's own Good to Know site states that the advertisements will also appear on public transport and, yes, online. It's basically Internet Safety 101 to help newbies avoid getting drained by online vampires (not real vampires, for any newbies reading this - there are no vampires on the Internet. Promise).
The campaign is segmented into four areas regarding staying safe on the Internet and successfully keeping one's personal information secure. The first, perhaps best considered the primer for understanding Internet security, is simply called "Stay safe online" and contains a list of online jargon (e.g., malware, spyware, phishing), ways to look out for yourself, password security, and so on. The main course of Internet safety, if you will. The accompanying video should help newbies catch on:
Following that, other topics include how your data is used online, how Google uses your data, and how to manage your data. Again, Google provides another video via their campaign:
The ads themselves are pretty benign, almost child-like in their aesthetic. It's pretty disarming if not outright inviting. Some examples of what you can expect to see from these print ads:
That's a pretty and fun welcome manual to the Internet, yeah?
So now for the question such a marketing campaign begs: Why would Google, the company many people tend to think as synonymous with the Internet, take out ads in newspapers and outdoor billboards? My thinking on it is thus:
People who are regular Internet users likely already have this whole Internet safety/security message down cold. However, there are people who don't use the Internet regularly and, due to all news being bad news these days, probably only hear mostly bad things coming from this Internet place. Identities stolen, loved ones stalked, bank accounts emptied, dogs and cats living together, etc. This class of advert, methinks, is directed at those people uninitiated in the ways of the Internet and hopes to assuage any of the trepidation and intimidation when they are confronted with Internet.
And the more people that are online, the more Google stands to gain. So why compete with the Facebooks and Twitters with long-time Internet users if you can just create a new pocket of Internet users while painting yourself as the good guy at the same time?
Pretty clever, Google. Pretty clever.