How does Google manage to do some of the most creative advertising around?
Robert Wong, chief creative officer at Google Creative Lab, the internal agency responsible for most of Google's product marketing, told attendees at the Advertising Age Digital Conference Wednesday that it's a combination of understanding the company's own culture and story, and then demonstrating the product in the most empathetic way possible.
Below, are five ways that the Lab inextricably links Google product with masterful storytelling.
1. Sometimes, the storytellers can influence the product.
When engineers were working on what ended up becoming Google Glass, they came to Mr. Wong's team to help them figure out what the product might be. It's a common way of working at the company, which prides itself on its rapid prototyping approach. The team then ended up going and making an ad about the product as if it was ready to launch already. "That video helped galvanize the team into making the final product," said Mr. Wong. "Storytellers can invent the future," he said, pointing to examples like "Minority Report" and its influence on scientists, and Star Trek's "invention" of the clamshell phone. Mr. Wong also said that sometimes, depending on the advertising, the "tone" of the product is established.
2. Product can be plot.
One of Google's first forays into advertising was the heartfelt and elegant "Parisian Love," one of few in-house ads to show up on the Super Bowl. It told the story of a young man falling in love with a French woman, all through his search history. "We realized early on that the best search results don't show up on a webpage, they show up in people's lives," said Mr. Wong. In fact, each search result was vetted by Google engineers, and was organic – which is why no results show up when the "long distance relationship" query is typed in, as there were no "high quality" results that were showing up for that particular term.
3. People will remember the way you made them feel.
Another Google hit was the stellar "Dear Sophie," the emotional journey of a new father writing emails to his daughter. "We just used the product, and the pictures," said Mr Wong. "Get out of the way of the product." But at the same time, he encouraged attendees not to take themselves too seriously, showing the funny "Maneater" commercial to promote collaboration on Google docs.
4. Give consumers the power.
When the time came to advertise YouTube, Mr. Wong's team approached famed director Ridley Scott to product "Life in a Day," a documentary distributed by National Geographic Channel showing scenes from around the world from a single day – all shot by YouTube users.
5. Do good things that matter.
Dan Savage uploaded a video telling gay teenagers that "it gets better" in response to reports of teen suicides due to bullying, and a bunch of gay Googlers made their own video. Feeling inspired, the Google Creative Lab capitalized on the movement, and created an ad chronicling all the response videos by people all over the world. It aired during an episode of TV series "Glee." "I thought, by airing it there, you're preaching to the converted," said Mr. Wong. "Play this during Monday Night Football… reach the middle part of the country." And it did.
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