Ad Review: Google Play Campaign Only Works in Small Doses

Ad Age's Review Column Is Back and Deems Less Is More for Google's Effort

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Despite its stellar success in search and online advertising, as well as future-defining technology like Google Maps, Google Glass and the self-driving car, Google has been a Johnny-come-lately in a couple of key areas, including the lucrative content sector.

Eventually even Grandpa Gus is going to figure out that the DVD player is every bit the dinosaur as a hi-fi, that you don't even need cable if you want to watch a movie. Thing is, Grandpa Gus -- and a host of other people who don't want to steal content -- has heard of iTunes and Amazon and Netflix. But Google Play, not so much.

So we have an ad push, including one of those glorious, minute-and-a-half anthem spots that aspires to poetry and aims for the heart. This one misses by a mile on both counts.

If only we could go back in time to Levi's "Go Forth" and beg Wieden & Kennedy to please -- please! -- reconsider what it was about to unleash on the world, three years' worth of marketers making grand, emotional statements about relatively mundane products. Chrysler has been the only marketer to pull it off -- and even Chrysler has beaten that dead horse into glue, judging by its last crop of Super Bowl ads.
As silly as it was, at least Levi's had Walt Whitman.

Google? Google's got: "The heart. It's a funny thing. … It pines. It sinks. It soars. Bands have heart. Stories tug at it. … And each day is a chance to give every beat a meaning. … And [the heart] wants heavy hearts. Heartbreak. Heart-racers. Heart-bursters. And heart-stoppers." In other words, grandiose nonsense. But Google saves the "best" for last. "There are about 2 billion, 500 million heartbeats in a lifetime. You should feel every one of them."

If that's not overpromising, I don't know what is. What's most excruciating about this is that the ad features scenes from very popular -- and very moving -- movies and music videos and books and games, which might have been effective if not for the overwrought script.

Need more evidence? Check out the 15-second spots that Google and BBH have taken out of this larger ad. In these, the user is treated to one specific vignette -- a girl reading "Clifford the Big Red Dog"; a commuter scoring during Candy Crush; a guy rocking out to KISS in a Japanese apartment; a woman watching a scary movie during her flight -- with no voice-over.

In other words, these very short spots show you exactly what Google Play does: Delivers books, delivers games, delivers songs, delivers movies, and, yes, even delivers those little moments of victory or suspense or what have you.

Short and simple, these spots sell the product. And they do so without sounding like a 19-year-old in a creative-writing workshop.

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