The Ad Smackdown: Facebook Vs. Google


Facebook’s Brand Debut “Things That Connect Us”

Posted online in October 2012, it was widely mocked for focusing on, well, chairs. While the ad featured some powerful writing, it lacked emotional grounding. “It was strong but was very abstract,” said Peter Madden, CEO of branding agency AgileCat. Added Wharton marketing professor David Reibstein: “It was not a story per se.” Part of the ad pitched Facebook as a source of comfort in a vast and lonely universe, but it came across as “almost a little scary,” Reibstein said.


Google’s First Big TV Spot “Parisian Love”

Google’s Super Bowl XLIV ad in 2010 scored a touchdown with viewers. “It really demonstrated the versatility of search,” said Reibstein. “It was really very emotive. It was a love story.” Added Madden: “It shows that Google isn’t just part of your life, it’s really interwoven into your world.” How does that compare to Facebook? “Google’s done a much better job in terms of emotionally connecting with the audience,” said Madden.


Hawking Facebook Home “Launch Day”

Spots in the social site’s first major TV buy, which kicked off in April, failed to clearly articulate what the phone app is or why consumers should use it. Evan Selinger, an ethics and tech professor—who in a Wired op-ed panned a third spot, “Dinner,” for celebrating selfishness—said the ads also fall short by framing a nondigital existence as lacking. “What’s in front of you sucks,” he summarized. “But we thankfully at Facebook can deliver you to the Promised Land of techno utopia.”



Selling Google Glass “How It Feels”

Posted online in February, this spot wasn’t quite a home run like some of Google’s other ads. “It had the thrill and excitement and emotion, but it didn’t have the [effect of] almost bringing you to tears,” said Reibstein. Still, it kept up the brand’s strategy of focusing on how the tech will make an already good life better—rather than promising salvation from an inherently boring world. “You don’t get diverted from the world; you get the world, plus,” said Selinger. “It’s always a plus. It’s never a minus.”