Google's new father-son ad will make you cringe

A journey from incredibly touching ad to horribly tone-deaf.

Google's new father-son ad will make you cringe

Take 1: Lover

On Nov 19, 2009, Google posted an ad to Youtube titled ‘Parisian Love’. It encapsulated all the emotional highs and lows of living with Google Search. It is one of tech's best ads ever made.

The beauty of this ad was that it was not presumptuous. It painted a picture of a person looking for love. All the self-doubt and excitement of finally meeting their partner coming to a crescendo with the adorable finale.

Take 2: Widower

Ten years later, in 2020, Google tried to recreate this same feeling with ‘Loretta’, even using the leitmotif from the original. The ad tugged on the same heartstrings while highlighting Google’s new Google Assistant suggesting memories.

This ad is not as touching as the first. ‘Parisian Love's narrative, minimal presentation, and hesitant cursor that feels much more realistic. With ‘Loretta’, I’m almost saddened by the image of a man reminiscing with a slab of plastic and glass. What's more is that I don't buy it as something a real person would do, even with the adorable voice-over.

Even with these complaints, I still think it’s a great piece of storytelling. Google’s presence, though more pronounced and unnatural, is still humble and supportive of the old man. It’s an effective ad with a touching message.

Take 3: Helicopter

This year, the company decided on another interpretation of the ”family-relationships-facilitated-by-Google” formula: Father-son bonding. Except… Well, you should see it for yourself…

I have never shuddered this much after an ad. The first two ads portray Google as a supporting role for two adults with agency over their lives. Google helps them discover simple facts or remember events to connect with a loved one. In ‘Hellooooooo’ the father is almost as annoying to me as he is to his son. The search giant’s presence is also a lot more proactive this time around, infiltrating various aspects of the man’s life as he desperately tries to connect with his avoidant son. After various failed attempts at connecting with the boy, including a signature earful over voicemail, Google swoops in for the rescue. The company solves the complex dynamics between a father and his adolescent son with an algorithmically suggested photo. Tada!

Erm… What?!

Has anyone who made this ever met a teenager trying to avoid their parents? A photo won’t do shit after being yelled at 100 times. It also feels like this dad has some serious helicopter parenting issues he needs to resolve.

All kidding aside, I’m genuinely uncertain what exactly I’m supposed to feel about this ad. In the first two, they capture genuine emotional struggles that people encounter and provide realistic scenarios for how to address them:

  1. Looking for a ticket to visit a girlfriend? Use Google Search.
  2. Want to see photos of your deceased spouse? Use Google Photos.
  3. Want to connect with your son who is having a moment? Scroll sadly through your Google Photos album until an algorithm forms a memory for you. Then take that memory and send it to the son and maybe he’ll come to his senses.

I’m all for companies demonstrating how easily their products help people through ads. However, some issues, like a struggling father reaching out to his son, are too complex to be solved this easily.