Why I Love and Hate Google

Superbowl Sunday is a favorite night for me, the over-the-top hype (we need more people involved in the coin toss next year), the ridiculous bets my cousin makes (I wind up rooting a lot for safeties) and championship level football (that onsides kick was craziness) never fails to draw me in.

But you can’t always count on the football game being interesting, which leaves what used to be my favorite part of all of this: the ads. I was going to do a little recap today of my favorite ads but weirdly enough the trend over the past few years has been for the football game to be exciting and the ads to be…well…sort of awful.

Honestly? How many ads were there with small furry varmints and people with no pants on? I can understand Bud Light going for the crotch-kicking humor angle but when did the law get passed that every single ad needed to go this route? You can almost hear the thinking, “This is one of the biggest venues of the year. Everyone watches it. We need our ad to be geared towards football fans.”

Nobody seems to put all of this together and arrive at the notion that the Superbowl has so many spectators you could branch out and advertise more towards your brand’s heart than towards the “Let’s chase drunken Saint’s fans” notion.

Cue the Google ad.

If you missed it (for some reason I can’t embed  it here) the ad consists of nothing but the Google homepage and search results as an unseen “narrator” proceeds to search for various things. As the ad progresses you come to realize that the things he’s searching for are telling you a story concerning his pursuit of a girl in Paris. The searches range from their first meeting as the cursor asks Google to translate a French phrase, to their first date as the cursor asks Google to find a cafe by the “louve” and on into their life as the cursor starts looking for job opportunities in Paris.

Again, you see nothing but these searches getting typed in and the various results that Google can provide, they even have the “narrator” misspell a number of things allowing Google to offer up the correct spelling. I don’t want to give away the ending but a search for “churches in Paris”  pops up after awhile.

It was freaking brilliant. And not only because it acknowledged that everybody watches the Superbowl and so you can target damned near any demographic and still land a bull’s eye (while my cousin in the same room as me ignored the ad and tried to figure out where he stood in his pool I could almost hear my sisters sighing from across state lines when the spot ended).

It’s brilliant because, well, because it’s brilliant.

The ad is ridiculously simple, displays the astonishing range of Google’s functionality (I had sort of never noticed just how many different results Google now gives from maps to flight results to translations) and tells a very cute love story.

Which is why I hated it.

I feel a lot like KGB, the preposterous service that also advertised during the Superbowl, their ad running somewhere near the Google ad. KGB stands for the “Knowledge Generation Bureau” and offers you answers to any question you want to ask them via text. Their ad consisted of two very scrawny and scared young men facing off against a fierce sumo wrestler. Armed only with their phones they had to figure out how to say, “I surrender,” in Japanese to avoid a pounding. One used KGB and got their result. The other only had the web and search engines and was, according to the ad, at a complete loss. Because he only had search engines. Search engines like Google. Which we just watched translate various things from French to English. Note, we didn’t just watch an ad where Google told us they could translate things, we literally watched Google do some instant translating.

For free.

The KGB concept baffles me, mainly because everyone I knew in college had this idea in 1998 but eventually came to realize that it was silly as the Internet became more prevalent and mobile phones became more robust. Apparently the KGB people missed this memo…and also have been hiding under a rock for most of this century.

And yet I feel for them. Granted they exist at some extreme end of this spectrum but it has to be difficult to be out there trying to do interesting things with the Internet only to turn around and see Google kicking your concept’s ass up and down the block without even trying. Hell, the Google ad has actually been on YouTube for months and they sort of randomly decided to air it during the Superbowl.

That’s like training to run a marathon for years and thinking you’ve got a chance at coming out on top only to have someone absolutely tromp you who wasn’t even training for a marathon, they were training for something else, like baseball, and the marathon thing kind of dovetailed with their baseball training so they decided they’d run one for fun and it turns out, gee willikers, that they kick ass at that too. And then they sleep with your wife. Who they wooed using Google.

So as absurd as I find KGB I really do feel for them.

I’m sitting here sweating decision after decision as I try to write a love story and Google comes along and with stunning lack of effort pulls a cute, original love story out of their god damned search engine.

Oh well.

At least their love story didn’t have zombies in it.