Google puts diversity (and Lizzo) at the heart of its Super Bowl ad

Big Game spot promotes Pixel 6 phone's Real Tone tech designed to accurately capture diverse skin tones

Published On
Feb 14, 2022

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While advertisers still have a ways to go with diversity in their Big Game ads, diversity was at the very core of Google’s Super Bowl message—all the way down to the product it promoted. 

The brand’s 60-second spot, which aired during the third quarter of the game, opens with a series of poorly shot photographs of people of color, their faces obscured or shaded as various narrators express how cameras never seem to capture them properly. 

“Until now,” copy then reads, before introducing a series of stunning images of individuals with a range of skin tones, all set to a new track from Lizzo, “If You Love Me.”

The spot promotes Google’s Pixel 6 phone and one of its distinctive features—Real Tone, a software tech that ensures its camera accurately captures diverse skin colors. 

“Brands, businesses, society—we still struggle with this idea of image equity on so many levels,” said Daryl Butler, VP of marketing, devices and services at Google. But the message in the ad, and with the product itself, goes beyond who gets put in front of a camera.

“As great as camera technology is, it doesn't necessarily always capture us the way we want to be seen—whether it's being washed out, or too dark,” Butler said. 

With the Super Bowl ad, he explained, “the intent is to showcase [Real Tone] in a meaningful, impactful way, make sure it's visually stunning, make sure that it is thought-provoking. And make sure that it does compel the consumer who sees this to want to learn more.”

The spot is part of a broader integrated campaign around the Pixel 6 and Real Tone going across social and Google’s various channels including its online store, the product landing page and retail.

Read: Diversity and inclusion in Super Bowl 2022 ads

It marks Google's fifth year in the Big Game. Its first was the famous "Parisian Love" ad that caught viewers by surprise in 2010, followed by a 2017 spot promoting Google Home, a pair of 2019 commercials around Google Translate and job searches for veterans and 2020's "Loretta" ad about a man coping with the loss of his late wife. 

You could say that this Super Bowl spot was more than four years in the making. That’s when Google engineers and developers first began development of Real Tone, working in concert with expert photographers and image makers known for their skill in capturing diverse subjects. Among those collaborators was Joshua Kissi, a Ghanaian-American photographer and director repped out of Division 7, who ultimately came on board to direct the ad. The spot also features images from artist Deun Ivory, who also helped with the development of Real Tone, and from photographers Aundre Larrow and Sam Robinson. 

Google created the spot with agency Gut Miami. According to Butler, the brief was to “demonstrate the challenge when it comes to image equity on the grandest scale, and do so in a way that is grounded in a product truth.”

Gut Executive Creative Director and Partner Ricardo Casal said that the brief originally had been “open enough for us to play around with all the features of the phone. [Real Tone] was the feature we thought was the most powerful, and we based our entire pitch on saying, ‘Guys, you’re changing history here, so we need to call out this feature.’”

Gut Executive Creative Director and Partner Juan Javier Peña Plaza also noted the agency was inspired by a line in the initial brief: “It is a powerful thing to be seen.”

“That encapsulates the importance of visibility, the importance of representation,” he said. “Connecting that with the world’s biggest stage, where literally you have all eyes watching the ads, it was a perfect opportunity to promote representation with a celebration of darker skin tones, to make this an ode to the beauty of dark skin tones.”

As for the music, Butler and the agency noted that Lizzo was like a magnet that drew them in.

“We looked at a number of different talented people, but we kept going back to Lizzo, Lizzo, Lizzo,” Butler said. “We looked for who best exemplifies this idea of image equity, and when we look at her platform, how she stands on it really strongly and empowers others to do the same, it was a no-brainer for us.”

Lizzo appears in the ad in the central photograph within the collage of portraits that assembles in the spot’s finale. But her song, said Peña Plaza, became the "poetry" that tied message and image together. “If you love me, you love all of me, or none of me at all,” she sings.

Butler noted that landing on the song was serendipitous. During development of the ad and discussions with Lizzo, she had given the team a preview of the unreleased tune (which the singer posted a snippet of last week on Instagram). “As we listened to it and unpacked the lyrics, it was as though the song was written with this piece of work in mind,” he said.