Google’s “Fearless” spot misses the point of “what (really) matters”

21.10.2013

In a charming new spot introducing the Nexus 7 tablet, Google shows what’s right—and wrong—with search as we know it. The commercial features a tween confronted with a public speaking assignment and a bad case of “glossophobia” who turns to his tablet for instruction and inspiration. He finds “The King’s Speech” and Colin Firth, FDR’s “best speeches ever” (“The only thing we have to fear…”), essays on building confidence and influencing people. We see him download music, check his schedule, archive and curate content. He even gets a supportive email from mom. Finally, we see (but do not hear) him speak and, serendipitously, win the girl. (Next question: how do I ask a girl out?)

 It’s adorable and a great demonstration of the tablet’s many functions and seemingly intuitive interface. But one thing worries me and that’s what is not said or shown—the potential invasion of his privacy. We can be sure that for weeks after this event, he’ll be seeing email ads and other digital communications related to public speaking and his name may be appended to sponsored content (i.e. ads) without his prior knowledge or consent, let alone compensation. (On the other hand, he might be smart or self-aware enough to opt-out.)

This is where the brand image lovingly communicated by the commercial smacks up against the brand reality. Google’s tracking does not live up to their promise of “don’t be evil.” And as we all know Google’s not alone in this. If Edward Snowden’s revelations have showed us anything, our data, our selves, are under constant surveillance and everything we have said or searched may be held against us. That’s a fear-inducing effect that no spot, however heartwarming, can overcome.

“Fear of private searching.” Google, what’s the word for that?

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