Google Home Now Includes Unsolicited Ads From Your Friends At Walt Disney Pictures

Google Home might not be the most popular voice assistant to offer convenient information in exchange for reams of personal data, but it appears to be the first to serve ads directly into users' living rooms.

Image: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

Bryson Meunier, a Chicago-based SEO marketing professional, filmed a bizarre interaction with one the search giant's friendly robot obelisks last night. After Meunier asked what his day "was like", Google's knowledge cylinder responded with the current time, local weather, and information about his commute — before launching into a 15-second ad for Beauty and the Beast complete with musical accompaniment and sound effects.

When asked for comment, Google gave the following statement to The Verge and Search Engine Land: "This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales." We haven't heard back from Google yet, but they will likely send the same thing, so let's dissect.

To be clear, this is absolutely an ad. It encourages people to exchange money for a product, is wedged in the middle of unrelated material, and uses a different soundtrack to call attention to the fact that it isn't related to the main message, a technique used by many podcasts. And no matter how much arse-covering the word "partners" is supposed to be doing here, Disney is not listed as a partner company on Google's own website.

Delving past the obvious obfuscation, even the statement reads just like ad copy. Beauty? Be our guest? Google must be trolling. To which I say both "hah" and "piss off".

Business Insider writer Steve Kovach obtained a statement from a Google spokesperson who claims the 15-second audio clip encouraging Home users to see Beauty and the Beast "wasn't intended to be an ad". Huh. The spokesperson went on to say the following [emphasis ours]:

What's circulating online was a part of our My Day feature, where after providing helpful information about your day, we sometimes call out timely content. We're continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case.

I, for one, can't wait to have Google surface "timely content" for other things I can pay money for.

Meunier's experience isn't an isolated incident, as it was easily replicated by Marketingland's Danny Sullivan. If this heralds the dawn of an ad-supported future for digital assistants, I guess the only surprise is that we didn't see it coming sooner.

[The Verge, Marketingland, Business Insider]

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Comments

    Seems like the TV or Radio or Youtube or Spotify...

    Wait til it launches a "premium assistant" - that's ad free :)

    Is there anything really new about this?

    I mean lets be clear - Gizmodo itself is publishing personalized advertorials under the "Partner Content" moniker?

    Google Now & Cortana feeds (maybe Siri?) already show trailers for movies you might like. This is kind of similar in audio form. It did sound more like an advertisement to go an see something than offering a trailer does, but it's also a different platform - audio only vs the visual card feed. Google Now, etc. can also show you up coming music events you might be interested in and other stuff like that. This Beauty & The Beast ad doesn't seem to be targeted to specific users though.

    I'll be clear here, I hate advertising, but I can see how this happened and I think there's a difficult line to tread between providing relevant content and advertising.

    I really don't see the issue here: Google are an advertising company. Expecting any of their products to be anything other than a delivery mechanism for adverts, or a means for collecting data in order to better target ads at you, is naive. And I'm not knocking the variety of services and technology they put out (and then kill).

    Also, can we ge these yet in Australia? If so, sign me up please. I'll then have an excuse to go and buy some compatible smart home devices.

      I really hate the advertising on the phones, but most of that is app related. While they may be profiling you for future ad sales you can use the phone *as a phone* without ads popping up. This on the other hand, is obnoxious, you're buying a device to use and then they're adding ads on top of that cost?

      I wasn't that interested in these (or amazon's equivalent) but I'm absolutely not going to buy one now.

    "You can turn on the living room lights after these brief messages from our psrtners"

    The issue here is not so much the ad itself... its more about how its delivered (device wise).

    If google gave me the product for my home (for free) and then i had to sit through ad's, its fair game. BUT... in this case I am coughing up some of my hard earned for this thing.

    If i went to the movies, paid my $20 and then the cinema stopped the film half way through to play an ad, I would be pissed off. However, when it happens on TV, we accept it because we arent actually paying to watch it.

    Last edited 17/03/17 7:46 pm

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