‘Replacement Google’ Rips NFL, Holds Lesson for Marketers

Whether you’re a football fan or not, you probably know about the recent NFL referee strike. The referees wanted more money; the owners didn’t want to give it to them. And to make sure the stream of American football went uninterrupted, the NFL hired replacement referees for every 2012 preseason and regular season game. Both sides crossed their fingers and hoped for the best.

Disastrous Results
Well, turns out crossing your fingers doesn’t really work. While the owners and referees finally came to an agreement, the decision to hire replacements was nothing short of an epic disaster. And when I say epic, I’m talking “the Hindenburg crashing into the Titanic right before running ashore and slamming into a double-parked Pontiac Aztek” epic.

The officiating in last Monday night’s game between the Packers and Seahawks is the perfect example of this. It was so bad, it actually changed the outcome and resulted in a world-record-breaking Twitter discussion, wherein both fans and players sounded off.

Voicing their Opinions
Twitter was just one platform for expression as the NFL received more than its fair share of guff (that’s right, guff) for this debacle. The players, the coaches, the media, the fans, nearly everyone took shots at the officiating both serious and spoof. But no one has really been able to encapsulate how truly awful the officiating has been … until now. Thanks to ReplacementGoogle.com, created by Erik Johnson, we now truly understand.

Regardless of what you put into the search query box, Replacement Google spits out completely random and unrelated results. Much like the replacement referees who watched clear, concise plays unfold before penalizing a team for something completely unrelated to the play.

Imagine if Google’s algorithm could go on strike. (Stick with me on this.) As a result, Google searches started yielding results like “McRib sales to boost GDP” — for the query “nearest emergency room.” I can only imagine the amount of McRib-induced chaos that would ensue .

Go With What You Know
If Google’s algorithm does go on strike, many will turn to other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo. But this is a lot like switching from watching the NFL to becoming a die-hard arena football fan, in my opinion. It’s a little slower, a little weirder and, more often than not, it lacks the finished product you expect. Many consumers would just keep pumping searches into Google because a) its market share dominates, b) it’s force of habit and c) it will get fixed eventually, right?

As a Bears fan, I’ll be honest and note that the blown call last Monday night seemed — at the time — like a fair, judicial and accurate call. … (Cough). Thanks to Replacement Google, and other facets of this short-lived meme, I’m one of many marketers who better understands the recent pain of NFL players, coaches and fans. Needless to say, we’re all happy that a tentative agreement has been reached. Game on!


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Chris Reebie
Chris Reebie

Chris is a director on the search team at Empower, where he has been helping brands successfully devise, implement and manage their paid search initiatives for almost a decade across a wide variety of industries including retail, consumer packaged goods, pharmaceuticals and education. His forward-thinking tactics focused on the areas of bidding, targeting and testing have helped ensure his clients can successfully navigate the hostile waters of the highly competitive paid search industry.