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Google Going After Microsoft Office with Old-School Ad Campaign

You have to knock out the champ. It's an old adage in boxing (if anybody remembers that sport). Rarely does a challenger win a decision over a champion; the underdog almost always needs to 10-count the champ if he (or she) is going to win the fight and claim the title. Just going the distance and "winning" on points usually won't do it. Or, at least, that's the way it used to be back when boxing was relevant.

The same goes for software and especially for Microsoft. It might be an aging, struggling champion, but Microsoft is still king of the ring when it comes to what we might generically call productivity suites -- or what we'd more commonly call an "office" suite, thusly dubbed because the longtime ruler of the roost in that particular category of software is the still-intimidating Microsoft Office.

Many challengers have stepped into the ring with Office, and most have suffered the old-school Mike Tyson treatment (warning: don't click on this link if you don't like boxing). Corel and Lotus are still out there somewhere stumbling in a daze, wondering where the punch came from that knocked them out of the "productivity suite" game. It came from Redmond.

Well, as we all know now, there's an up-and-comer in the suite business, and it's no Francois Botha. (That reference will only make sense if you watched the video linked above, by the way.) It's Google, and it has decided to try to be the Buster Douglas to Microsoft's Mike Tyson by doing something Google almost never does: advertising Google Apps.

And how is the king of Internet advertising...well, advertising? With -- get this -- billboards! Yes! Real billboards on highways in big American cities! Forgive us if we find it hilarious that the sharpest company in cutting-edge technology is using a turn-of-the-20th-century method to get its message across about its competitor to Office. And to think that this is happening while the newspaper industry is dying...

Oh, there's probably more coming from Google on the Apps ad front, but for now, Google is using the old-fashioned billboard to try to convince Office users to get out of their easy chairs and give a new system -- and a new concept, really -- a try. (We haven't spotted the sign on the Mass Turnpike in Boston yet, but we'll let you know when we do. And we might even try to get a photo of it without causing a 30-car pileup. However, if you do read online about a 30-car pileup on the Mass Pike in Boston, you'll know whose fault it was.)

 Billboards are a heck of a way to try to take on a software institution, but Google's got the resources and stamina to hang with Office (capital "O") for at least a few rounds. We can't wait to see what's next. Newspaper ads? Radio spots? Guys standing on sidewalks wearing sandwich boards? In the meantime, though, Microsoft Office remains undefeated. But remember, Google: You have to knock out the champ. And your first punch is likely to be a glancing blow at best.

What's your take on Google's billboards? Can Google knock out Office? Take your best shot at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on 08/04/2009 at 1:22 PM


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