Peter VanRysdam / Marketing / March 26th, 2010

Google "Gator Madness?" Why Don't You Just Tell Me The URL?

There has been a commercial for a car dealership running here in Gainesville, Florida recently that irks me for several reasons. I guess this post would qualify as a rant. Throughout the ad there is text on the bottom that reads “Google Gator Madness.” For some background, I should point out that Gainesville is home to the University of Florida Gators. I have to admit, the first time I read the text I didn’t even get that they were using Google as a verb. It made no sense to me. I’m sure Google would love to see their brand being devalued, because it becomes very hard to protect a trademark after it makes it in to the public lexicon. Just ask Kleenex, Coke, or BandAid. That point aside, I immediately thought to myself: Why ask the user to search for something when you can just give them the address? I never did come up with an answer on that one. So here is one of the many problems with the ad. The dealership, Gatorland Toyota, does not come up on the first page for “Gator Madness.” Instead, what they’ve done is paid for a pay-per-click ad. I know, just crazy, right? Take a look at this screen capture, and notice that someone else in town has also picked up on the “madness” and now shows up first for the keyword! So, to recap, they have paid for a television commercial to be produced that, if effective, will cost them more money. They already paid for the Web site, the hosting, and the ad. Now they have elected to pay for visitors when they had a way to tell the customer a direct way to find them. Let’s recap the craziness here:

  1. They are paying for clicks that could be free
  2. A savvy competitor could easily outbid them or at least drive up the bid price
  3. An even more savvy competitor could simply optimize a page for that keyword, knowing it is not trademarked, and that most people overlook the PPC ads and go right for the organic listings.
  4. They are not considering the users that will take “Google” to mean search, and go to Bing, Yahoo, or any other number of other engines where they don’t have ads.

My only thought is that they think this is a good way to track the campaign. If that’s the case, just spend a couple of bucks on a domain specific to the ad, or even use the /GatorMadness URL they’ve already setup! A free tool like Google Analytics can tell you how effective the campaign is just as much as your dwindling advertising budget can. I bet the jewelry shop selling Gator gear that owns is seeing a nice bump in traffic too! And we wonder why the car industry is where it is…