On Creativity through New Year’s, we’ll be revisiting some of the brand ideas and campaigns that made 2019—and the last decade. Check back on AdAge.com on January 1 for the full lists.
Best of the Decade
Today, it’s commonplace for ads from big tech brands to be rife with emotion, but arguably, Google was the first to demonstrate the impact of feelgood in what traditionally had been a category confined to sterile and slick product shots and stats. The ad found power in simplicity, and in the din of big budget Super Bowl ads, it quietly commanded attention as it drew viewers into a riveting love story that played out in an unexpected setting—the brand’s search bar. And it happened to be an excellent product demo too.
The strategy continued in more standout ads, including the heartwarming “Dear Sophie” from 2011, promoting the Chrome browser.
Google's surprising appearance in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLIV told an epic love story within the simple framework of the search window.
Although it wasn't announced ahead of time, much less released online early as would become the norm, the search giant’s ad got a flurry of pre-game press after Federated Media chief John Battelle reported on his blog that it was coming. It was unexpected because Google at that point had not advertised on TV beyond a few cable spots for its web browser Chrome the year before.
During and after the game, the spot was widely discussed, tweeted, blogged-about and re-posted on all manner of digital water coolers from Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn. Several measures of online buzz ranked Google's "Parisian Love" as one of the top spots during the 2010 Super Bowl. Google's spot came in at No. 2 in web buzz to Doritos, according to media-monitoring firm Radian6 and ad agency Mullen due to its high percentage of "positive tweets." Google's ad led Zeta Interactive's measure of online buzz, with positive blog posts running 98%. And on Hulu, sentiment was a little more mixed but still strong, with the ad coming in at No. 2 among most-liked but only No. 4 among most-watched. And yet, when USA Today charted the reactions of 250 people who were actually watching the Super Bowl rather that tweeting on Twitter, updating Facebook statuses or posting on blogs, Google's ad came in at No. 43 of 63 (including movie trailers).
Pete Blackshaw, VP of Nielsen's Online Strategic Services, told Ad Age on the day after the game that “Parisian Love” clearly appealed to a wired crowd, and thus it was no surprise it scored higher online than elsewhere. But that online popularity can start to influence the offline. "Wired voices tend to bleed over into popular or mainstream perceptions, especially given the degree to which 'earned media' fills search results," he said.
The spot was the work of the Google Creative Lab, particularly a group of students recruited from ad and design schools for a program called the “Google 5.” The original plan was to assemble a designer, an art director, a writer, a filmmaker and a programmer, but after vetting the candidates in a process the Lab’s Robert Wong told Ad Age was like "casting a reality show," the team selected two writers, Tristan Smith and J. Smith; two designers, Anthony Cafaro and Jonathan Jarvis; and a programmer, Michael Chang. What became "Parisian Love" and a Super Bowl hit started out as a key Google brief, to "remind people what they love about Google search," but also to showcase some engine particulars they might not know about.
Google returned to the game in 2017 ("Coming Home").
Check out a Tiger Woods spoof of the spot here