Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why Yes, Google Nexus is Using a Dying Dog to Pitch Their Product

“Boomer’s not doing well.”

Cut to a picture of cute dog, laying on its side, presumably sick and implied on its death bed.

Time to cue the Sarah McLachlan?

Nope, this isn’t an ad for animal cruelty. Or families. Or spending time with your dog. It’s an ad for the Google Nexus.

Yes, a smartphone is hyping their product by implying a dog is going to die.

google nexus boomer
What blows my mind about this ad – besides absolutely everything – has been the response since it aired the first time this week, at least online. One site even said the ad was aimed at “dog lovers” as if dog lovers like to be reminded of dogs dying.

Look, I’m not really the type to get on my high horse and proclaim something is terrible and wrong – unless we’re talking about the doomed college football playoff. But as someone who now works in communications and marketing, everything about the ad runs counter to what you would want from an ad.

Let’s start with the obvious – the plot surrounds a dog dying. Clearly, this was made by someone who has never owned a dog. Because if you have owned a dog, especially a family dog as you grew up, thinking about that dog being sick and possibly dying is one of the worst feelings you can experience as a human being.

Why on Earth would Google want to associate that horrific, helpless feeling with their new product?

“Remember that time your family pet died…well, think about that the next time you use your Google Nexus.”

The mechanism of how the student finds out his dog is sick is, well, sick. His mother texts him and tries to get him to respond. He does not, so she says she’ll call in a little bit. He is then shown playing a video game. After playing the game, he gets a picture from his mom with the aforementioned “Boomer’s not doing well” text. The student quickly springs into action.

Okay, first off, holy shit, what a terrible mother! I don’t know about your Mom, but I feel like my Mom would probably call me if something awful was happening. In fact, I know this because whenever my phone rings from my parent’s house in Hebron and I’m not expecting it, my heart skips a beat thinking the worse*.

*On a random Tuesday night, the phone rang. It was my parents. I was worried. Turns out it was my Dad telling me than UConn was going to start hot-shot freshman Tim Boyle at QB. My heart returned to normal.

Now it makes sense for the younger generation to not, ya know, pick up the phone and call. But what mother from a previous generation would simply text to see if the son was around?

And that’s not even the worst part! She sends him a PICTURE MESSAGE to let him know his beloved dog could be dying. A picture message? Jesus, commercial Mom, you couldn’t pick up the phone for five damn seconds and call your son? How would that make you feel, if you saw a picture of your dog sick while you were hundreds of miles away? Doesn’t that make it 100 times worse?

Let’s also remember the crushing feeling the son must feel when he finds out why his Mom was trying to get a hold of him. Instead of responding to his mother, he spent Lord knows how much time playing a video game.

How shitty does he feel when he realizes he gave up time with his dog to play on his smartphone? I mean, doesn’t that do the opposite of prove why you need a smartphone? It proves to me that life would be a lot better if the son just had a flip-phone so he could answer his Mom’s call and get home.

I bet he must really love that Google Nexus as he’s traveling home. “Gee, I could’ve been home sooner to spend precious moments with my beloved dog but I was too busy fucking around on this stupid phone.”

Lastly, the Google Nexus doesn’t actually provide anything in the commercial that literally any other smartphone or tablet in the world could. He finds out his plane is cancelled and it’s raining. WOW! Google Nexus told me the weather and a flight cancellation? That’s never been done before!

And isn’t that an extra kick in the pants for the kid – dog’s dying, flight cancelled and he’s stuck in the rain. Boy, doesn’t that sound like the happiest moment of his life – sure he’s really thanking his Google Nexus at the depths of his despair.

I understand that commercials like to tug on heartstrings and/or shock you, but the message is usually positive. The Sarah McLachlan commercials exist to make sure animal abuse stops. Those horrible car crash commercials? There to show you can avoid accidents in the future.

This ad? This ad is trying to sell you a smartphone by implying you need one to find out your dog is dying. And the tagline is, “Made for what matters.” In that entire commercial, the thing that matters the least is the Google Nexus.

My girlfriend rescued a dog in 2010. Her name is Midge and she was given four months to live in May because of a tumor on her stomach. I’m happy to report she had successful surgery to outlast that dire prognosis. But I know, far too well and too recently, the awful, crippling pain that comes with the realization your dog is sick.

I saw this commercial for the first time at the gym last night as I was riding the bike and watching Game 5 of the NLCS. It stunned me. I spent the 12 hours thinking about how terrible it made me feel. How I never wanted to see it again. If you want to see it, you can click here.

For me, I will never, ever use a Google Nexus and I hope you don’t either. The stupidity of using a dying dog to market a smartphone should not go unpunished.

But maybe I should thank Google Nexus. I won’t buy their product, but it did make me pay more attention to my dog last night – and far less attention to my smartphone.

Dogs – Made for what matter.

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30 comments:

  1. The only thing that upsets me is you. If you're a marketing major, why don't you understand that this ad is a success because it achieves the goal they set out to attain. Your article is well written. It is, however also whiny, slightly extremist, and annoying to read.

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    1. I'm not a marketing major. I'm a professional.

      Was the goal to make sure I never buy a Google Nexus? And tell everyone I know to not buy a Google Nexus? That's an odd goal.

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    2. Really, anon? As a consumer and former marketing strategist I thought it was an appalling approach. It is painful to recall losing a beloved pet at a similar age to the kid portrayed in the ad and I hate that I'm reminded if it three times a night by this awful ad. It's unnecessary and does nothing to draw me to using a nexus.

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    3. Thank you Hannah, I hate ads period.

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    4. Sean, I'm sure that wasn't their intention, I guess if you didn't get an education in marketing you might have a different way of measuring the success of advertisements, but the fact that the ad elicited 12 hours of consideration from you would cause most advertisers to consider this a resounding success. Also, as others have pointed out, you also completely missed the boat on the ad's story line, which is unfortunate because it's one of the most clever ads of the entire year.

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  2. The ad isn't a success if it offends the conscience of its audience. The ad reads as cheap and manipulative. If its target audience consists of people too daft to realize they are being manipulated, or that Google is the antithesis of such sacred facets of humanity, then the ad is brilliant.

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    1. What are you saying? Ads are by default manipulative, they are trying to inform us about a product and convince us that we need/want it. Android tablets are great at finding routes to get you home and helping you navigate in new cities. I'm willing to bet that at least one person has used their Nexus 7 to succssfully find an alternate route home in an emergency just like this one, so I don't find it especially cheap or manipulative, it seems like you might have some brand loyalty that's getting in the way of you viewing this ad objectively.

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  3. Totally agree with the author. All this commercial did was bring up awful feelings of my dog dying last year. That's coming from a Google fanboy, too. Just awful. I couldn't believe the gall of the commercial to use a dying dog to sell a tablet.

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  4. AMEN! I immediately burst in to tears, and have been sad all day. Thanks google.

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  5. Isn't the dog using the tablet to get his boy home? His paw is on the tablet with a toy in his mouth at the end waiting for him to come home and play?

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    1. No. Even if that were true, it's still using a dying dog to hawk a product.

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  6. Yes, but if you've ever called a college-age student, they never answer their phone if they see it's from a parent. Now, a text--that might get a response. I think the mom is off the hook for this one.

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    1. As a recent college graduate who went through a similar situation and lost a /parent/ rather than a dog, I can tell you that that's a lie. We /do/ pay attention to our phones.

      Occasionally, we'll do as the student in the commercial did and send back, "I'll call you back in a little bit."

      The mother in the commercial had the option of texting, "Honey, it's really important" or any variation thereof rather than, "Well, okay ya little jerk, here's a picture of your dying childhood friend so book a flight or not the choice is yours."

      Options.

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  7. The dog clearly is fine at the end, the commercial tugs at your heart strings like those with military personnel, old folks and other tear jerking scenarios. It reflects a person's willingness to go to any lengths to get to a loved one, even a dog, and then how to get there.

    Grow up.

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    1. I didn't interpret the dog as fine. I interpreted him as panting and trying to hold on while his master tried to get home in time to say goodbye. Incidentally, the same that happened when my cat died when I was 21. She held on just long enough for me up get home and then literally died in my arms.

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  8. The dog tricked the kid into comming home he's with the tablet and a toy why else would the tablet be becide the dog

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    1. I said the same thing and got an immediate rebuttal.

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    2. Even if that's true (and it's clearly not), it's still supposed to give the impression the dog is dying.

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    3. I too think the dog is the culprit! So that's 3 people so far, anyone else? So why is it "clearly" not? And why not throw in that theory? Most commercials are stupid to begin with. Geckos can walk & talk, therefore dogs are capable of texting their missed loved ones!

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  9. The ad is certainly successful because it made you feel something other than irritation. That Google could tell a more powerful story in 30 seconds than half of the Hollywood movies that came out this year makes it a success, even if you didn't like it.
    Google isn't using a dying dog to sell a phone; it's using a story about the human experience to sell their vision of the future (with them at the center of it). Look at their other commercials. They're doing some real storytelling instead of dancing around with flashy crap. If you just like commercials about people being inexplicably excited about Bud Light, don't worry, that commercial will be on immediately before and after the terrible one that made you think and feel something.

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    1. A successful ad makes you buy something.

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  10. Apparently things worked out for Boomer:

    https://twitter.com/googlenexus/status/405379800665047040

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  11. At the end of the commercial the dog actually looks like it's panting rapidly, as dogs do when they're in pain. I'm not sure if that was intentional but it definitely hit home (in a bad way). I'm not their demo so I can't really comment on the effectiveness of the ad.

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  12. I can't even begin to believe how awful this commercial is especially coming from my favorite brand phone brand Google, make me want to throw my galaxy nexus out the window. Why would I want to be reminded while watching south park that my best friend who is currently three has to die at some point in time much further away than I have to. The fact that someone was compelled to ha, google this, should be enough. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for ads not being stereotypical and trying to be different because I hate how dehumanizing ads are but this was not ok. Thanks google for ruining my night

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  13. All I want to know is if he made it home to see the dog in time.

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  14. If you look at the phone, his mother did try to call him. It seem to me that his mother was trying not to alarm him, and finally had to resort to using the dog to get his attention. It seems to me the point of the commercial is that the phone is not just fun and games, but when you need it for the moments that matter most.

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  15. Love this entire post and all of the photos you chose!
    http://www.dog-runs.ie/

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  16. I get the premise of the commercial. It did it's job. People are talking about it. I do take issue with the object of the commercial. Why not have a pair of grandparents facing the same issue/problem of trying to get to the birth of a grand child. A Mom or Dad out of town on business who is trying to get back home to see a little league baseball game. There were plenty of options. A dying dog? Call me narrow minded, dumb, what the hell ever but they made sure I'll never buy one or that if I am in the market for a similar device, I'll be looking elsewhere. Their commercial worked, and then it failed.

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    1. Such an excellent comment. Staying in touch with family is a good premise, but the dog just ruins that message completely. Even if you're someone who believes the commercial works because "people are talking" - they aren't talking about the product at all.

      Thanks for reading, whoever you are.

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