Google’s Super Bowl Stunt

Bubbling around $5.6 million per unit, a Super Bowl commercial is about the most money you can spend on 30 seconds of airtime, and for good reason — it’s worth it.

A Super Bowl ad is the complete opposite of targeted advertising. It is, in modern parlance, 100% waste advertising. If you buy an ad during the Super Bowl, your target audience is everyone in America, every expat, and every American football lover worldwide.

There is only one reason to purchase a Super Bowl ad: you need to make people aware of your product or service. If your business objective is awareness, Super Bowl ads (even at $5.6 million a pop) are the most efficient way to reach a truly mass audience.

It is with that demo and business case in mind that I want to bring your attention to Google’s “Loretta” ad. It’s a three-hanky, heart-tugging spot that has us eavesdropping on an elderly widower hoping that Google Assistant will help him remember the highlights of his life with his late wife.

The ad is beautiful, poignant, thoughtful, sentimental, informative and… evil. It may be the most evil advertisement I’ve ever seen. What Google doesn’t tell you about the service is what it will do with all of the extra data this widower has given it: how much better it will be able to target him, who they will be able to “sell” him to, etc., all without any warning. The service is “free” — not because the widower is the “product” that Google is selling, but because this man is a worker in the mines of Google.

Where is the product labeling? Where is the disclaimer that when you tell Google Assistant everything about the best parts of your life, the algorithm enriches your profile and Google becomes more profitable at your expense?

None of this would bother me if the ad had a disclaimer, or if the ad started with a younger relative adjusting the widower’s privacy settings in advance of his experience. This was an ad designed to make people who have no idea what Google does for a living (or how Google works) give Google their private data.

I don’t remember a non-political television commercial making me this angry — ever. Shame on you, Google, for this insidious attack on the uninitiated. They deserve better from you. We all do!


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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit



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