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Googling The Competition: Mazda v. Pontiac

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After General Motors made a call to television viewers to “Google” the Pontiac brand name, it didn’t take long for Mazda to launch a keyword counterattack. Sponsored search results carried the echo of Mazda marketing snickers as Pontiac searchers were invited to a side-by-side comparison under the link title “Pontiac vs. Mazda.”

The scenario denotes two important developments: the emerging of a new TV-to-Web advertising strategy as major companies are not only pointing to URLs, but also inviting viewers to do a search; and that bidding on competitor brand keywords can be an effective (albeit potentially expensive) strategy.

Mazda bought the words “Pontiac” and “Pontiac Solstice” to bolster exposure for the MX-5 Miata, Pontiac Solstice’s chief rival in the two-seater roadster market.

Acknowledging the power of the Google brand, now used in the common vernacular as a verb, as a symbol of relevancy and credibility, GM chose the search engine for its TV spot as the most recognizable call to action. After all, nobody says, “just Yahoo! it.”

Though the cleverness of the TV-to-Google campaign backfired a little, it is definitely a harbinger of things to come. We should expect to see more of that while noticing also a stronger Google hold on the search market.

In a USA Today article, GM marketing director Mark-Hans Richer said Mazda had been taunting them like this for a while (though John Battelle says it was his idea). “We find it flattering that they’d like to take the market-share leader for the last 18 years and compare it to a newcomer. We think it’s a wonderful comparison,” he said through his pearly whites.

A faint “tee-hee-hee” could be heard from the Mazda camp. In the same article, vice president of marketing for Mazda, Don Romano, says the company will continue looking to bid on competitor brand name keywords while looking for more “alternative modes of advertising.”

Primarily focused on a younger market that’s typically more interested in the roadster model (they forgot about Mr. Notyounganymore booming Kanye West from his speakers while pretending to care about Miss Implants’ thoughts on iPods), Romano said marketing to that demographic is a new game altogether.

“What we’re finding is that this younger demographic is not sitting in front of the television watching commercials,” he says.

That is, unless you count the Super Bowl. This Sunday’s Steelers/Seahawk match-up continues the trend of TV-to-Search advertising. Brands that advertise during the Super Bowl experience a serious spike in search traffic during the next 24 hours.

“In an era when consumers turn to search engines to research companies and investigate products, Super Bowl advertisers must harness the online demand they’re creating, and turn viewers into instant customers,” says Peter Hershberg, managing partner and co-founder of Reprise Media.

Currently, GoDaddy.com is the champion of Super Bowl-to-Search-to-Website advertising. But then again, that’s where Miss Implants works.

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Googling The Competition: Mazda v. Pontiac
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