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Courtney Blacker.

Having spent most of her marketing career at apparel brands like North Face and JanSport, Courtney Blacker faced a considerable challenge when she moved over to Google Cloud as head of brand marketing. Never mind that Google's Silicon Valley culture and suite of cloud-computing tools are a far cry from the world of backpacks and ski jackets; there were systemic challenges, too. The tech giant's b-to-b offering was a relative latecomer to a cloud category dominated by the likes of Amazon and Microsoft. What's more, Blacker's remit was to not only make Google Cloud appealing to IT customers but familiar and relevant to the broader culture.

"Our ambition is to be the reference cloud brand--and the cloud space is crowded," says Blacker. "If we can connect to as large an audience as possible and help a large audience tap into this massive technology sea change that's happening with the cloud, it helps us be that top-of-mind brand."

But how? First, Blacker found her large audience--the 43 million viewers tuned into the NCAA's 2018 March Madness tournament. Then, instead of commissioning a standard-issue TV spot that would explain what Google Cloud did, Blacker opted for a series of realtime ads that would show what it did. Using data culled from the first half of the Final Four, Google's Cloud-powered software predicted what would happen in the second half.

Housed in a trailer outside the Alamodome in San Antonio, with cables running underground to deliver the final edits to Turner Broadcasting's truck, Blacker's team--including Google data scientists and engineers, agency partners like Eleven and a sports analyst--used Google software to crunch the numbers on the first half of play. Next they ran it through an algorithm based on decades of historical NCAA data, and fed the results into more cloud-based software. With results in hand, the team then had all of 10 minutes to cut together and produce six TV spots. Each of those hastily assembled ads posited a likely outcome for second-half play--such as the number of rebounds or three-point attempts. The tagline; "Know what your data knows."

It was a harrowing and (as crystal-ball gazing always is) risky process. Mistaken predictions could make Google look foolish. Fortunately, Blacker's group did have plenty of data--a "treasure trove" of historical stats that came to them courtesy of the NCAA partnership brokered in December 2017. "We looked at that partnership as an opportunity to demonstrate to the world how they could take their data and tap into it in a way that they never have before," says Blacker.

And fortunately, Google Cloud's predictions were pretty much dead-on. For example, by halftime during the Kansas-Villanova game, Google pegged a 72.5 percent chance there'd be 55 shot attempts coming--and there were.

But behind the impressive accuracy, there was Blacker's disciplined approach and nerve to attempt the gambit in the first place. According to Philip McDougall, Google Cloud's creative director for events and experiences, Blacker is "someone who sees the big picture and also sweats the little detail," adding that "her energy and her hustle become really strong catalysts for the rest of the team to stay united and excited about the big idea even when there are constraints or challenges put in the way."

Then there are the other results--the marketing ones. The first year of the NCAA execution netted a 13 percent spike in brand awareness and a 30 percent increase in visits to Google Cloud's web page, which eventually led to "actual direct revenue attributable to the campaign," Blacker says.

Asked if she can say exactly how much, Blacker laughs: "No, I can't."


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Author:Beltrone, Gabriel
Date:Nov 5, 2018
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