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By Carl Howe

As MediaPost notes, Google has quietly started underwriting PBS's science program NOVA using home-developed 15-second ads. This seems to have flummoxed many in the Silicon Valley community; as was noted by Jupiter Analyst Gary Stein:

"The fact that there would be any sort of a commercial, even a short little spot, is not what they've done in the past," he said. "It's one of those things that's become a badge of honor among Web 2.0 companies--to not spend any money on advertising."

Guys that is so 1990s. Repeat after me: This is awareness advertising. It's a good thing. And it beats the hell out of the traditional 30-second spot.

Seriously, PBS sponsorships and underwriting carry a double benefit for marketers. First, they hit a high-income, high-education demographic, which is often very useful. Secondly, they do so in a fairly low-cost way, and carry an implicit third-party validation (i.e., PBS is implicitly vouching that they are a worthy underwriter, something you don't get on your run of the mill Fox Network spot) to their message that you can't buy any other way. The fact that Google figured this out all by themselves, put together a rather clever ad, and actually spent the money says that they have some people smart enough to think about the value of their brand. Who knows. Maybe Masterpiece Theatre is next.

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Source: Google Starts Advertising on PBS, Understands Brand vs Web 2.0 Norms (GOOG)