A quick scan through the archives of the Google Event Logos -- those cute sketches that have appeared on the Google homepage over the years -- shows two interesting trends.
-- Second -- and I think far more significantly -- there were far more brands incorporated into the logos in 2009 than ever before.
I don't think that's a coincidence. I think that Google is preparing us for display ads on the Google homepage -- perhaps as early as 2010.
The Google Logos: Some History
An historical perspective is helpful here. Traditionally, the Logos have been Google's way of celebrating major cultural, historical, or scientific significance events-like the Apollo moon landing, Mother's Day, or the birthday of Martin Luther King. Brand-based doodles have been scant. By my count, 2008 featured only four homepage Doodles that were arguably brand-based:
That's a total of 4 brand-based logos, only two of which were international, and at least one (the Australian Opera House) which could easily be written off as an image of a cultural icon -- and not a true brand at all.
Now compare that list with the 2009 Google brand-related Logos:
To be sure, Google has limited itself to brands of very deep cultural resonance-a Google Logo featuring Big Bird or Popeye is different than, say, a Google logo featuring the Nike Swoosh. But it's hard to ignore a growing trend-and a subtle shift from Google Logos free of major brands in past years.
Not Just Doodles
The Doodles aren't the only shift on the Google home page. Another subtle shift in the direction of advertising is the overlay and top right corner messages about Google Chrome that appeared on Google.com this December. A special message within Google about a Google feature may not technically qualify as an ad; but it certainly lays the groundwork for other special messages-including special branded messages-in the future.
It isn't surprising that 2009 would be the year when Google takes initial steps towards homepage advertising. 2009 has been a big year for Google and display, with launches ranging from the DoubleClick display advertising Exchange, to product images within search results, to movie trailer videos within search results. And Google's own display work, in turn, is part of a still larger trend-the merging of search and display media, which we should also expect to see more of next year.
And so the real lesson here isn't about Google Doodles alone. It's that, for 2010, search marketers will need to integrate search with their broader media buying program more than ever before. Expect that trend to show up on the Google homepage, within Google search results, and beyond. Count on it.