Storytelling Rules in Google’s Super Bowl Ad


Tucked among a bevy of Super Bowl ads that mostly featured stupid and/or pantless men was a spot by Google that stood out because it told a story and did so in a way that was true to the brand.

Many critics put the Google ad near the top of their lists of this year’s best. The ad reinforces the visually recognizable Google brand, but it’s the storytelling that really makes it work. Through a series of search terms, we follow the story of the unseen user as he moves to Paris to study, falls in love and courts a French girl, marries and looks forward to the birth of a baby. All in less than 60 seconds.

As I’ve written before, storytelling is among the most powerful techniques commmunicators have at our disposal. People are drawn to stories about people because we see ourselves in the drama. We also commit stories to memory more readily than a dry recitation of facts.

In a recent interview for ContentWise magazine, which I edit, my friend and fellow consultant Steve Crescenzo hits on what makes for a compelling story: “Real people. There is real drama in most organizations. There is conflict. There are challenges. There are wins and losses and winners and losers. … The best stories always involve real people talking about real life. No buzzwords, no jargon, no spin. Just real-life stories from the people who have lived them.”

He adds that a good story can be told in any medium. “Some people think storytelling automatically means longer pieces,” Steve says. “That doesn’t have to be the case. You can tell a great story in a couple of paragraphs for a marketing brochure. You can tell a compelling tale in two screens on a blog. You give a good communicator a vehicle, any vehicle, and they can find the stories that fit the vehicle’s formula.”

That’s exactly what the creative minds at Google did. The result is a story that illustrated what the product is all about and that was told through the use of the product. It was brilliant storytelling that was made for TV.

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3 Responses

  1. Not only was it great storytelling, it was great marketing as well. He consulted Google on every one of his life decisions. The ad was sort of a parallel to the yellow pages spots where something goes horribly wrong and they type in a word to look up something to fix it. Google could have gone for cheap laughs but took the high road, and it was memorable.

    • I agree, Ray. The ad worked for many reasons, one of which was the compelling story. But, as you note, it was a great example of brand marketing in which viewers sort of participated in the experience. It showed the product being used — and in a way that resonated with viewers.

      I’m proud to say that one of the creators of the ad is a graduate of my alma mater — Virginia Commonwealth University. He went to school at VCU’s Brandcenter, the graduate advertising program, and now works for Google.

  2. According to USA today, the snickers bar ad with Betty White in it was the most popular ad. I for one don’t buy that for a second. There were some that were way funnier and memorable.

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