There were a couple of good lessons to learn from Super Bowl Sunday. In my case, lesson one was that there actually is a limit as to how much guacamole one man should consume. At least the good news is that it is a lot of guacamole.
But then of course were the ads. The two I found most interesting were those from Facebook and Google. Both of these companies are feeling a lot of heat around the subject of data and privacy. This is a difficult conversation for them to have, in that their main reason for existence and certainly their main source of profit is by scraping and selling your data and, as-such, your privacy.
Most clients will have heard me say, one time or another, “If you find yourself polishing a turd, the answer to your troubles will not be found in polishing harder.” But that is exactly the route Facebook took with its ad. (To the surprise of no-one.) More trips by Facebook to the distraction well. Their ad was clever and cute, consisting of various user groups, tied, one way or another to a “rock” theme, e.g. rock skimmers, rocking chairs, rock lifter etc. It basically says, “Sure, we steal and abuse your data, but we’re really cool so stop looking behind the curtain.” Awwww. This is the standard go-to for tech firms of one flavour or another. (See We Work.) (-Not really a tech-firm but acts like one).
Google reprised, on the face of it, the styling of the magnificent “Paris” ad it did in 2009. I still consider that ad to be in my top ten best ads of all time. The clean demonstration of how Google helps you with so many things beyond simple search and all done with such uplifting emotion.
The 2020 ad was similar but with significant and timely differences. By showing (without showing) an elderly man remembering his beloved wife, we got all the emotion and were shown many ways Google can help you, but, importantly, they showed ways it helps that requires them to have our data. In a way, showing that they are better, more secure bankers of our data than our forgetful brains can be trusted to be. The old man was actively asking Google to help him remember his own wife, so his fogging brain would never let her go.
The tagline might as well have been: “Google, your better, more trustworthy brain.”
VERY different ways of tackling the same privacy tsunami that each is facing. Facebook went the diversion route and probably just figures it will buy off the required number of politicians. Sadly, that route will probably work, but I still admire Google for putting in the intellectual work and creating a masterful ad, that does its work without you really noticing it.
That said, I don’t trust either of them.
The biggest problem with the tech giants is not their monopolistic control of the market, it is their unrestrained and growing control of Americans’ behavior. The power that the large social media companies wield over our lives and the level to which they are controlling us is frightening.
Imagine if we used our current experience to reinvent schools and redesign cities. If we had a mixture of learning online with “playing” on-site; if we gave less real estate to our cars and more to housing. The beauty about going through such a time of fracture is that the opportunity cost for deploying bold ideas seems low.
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