I search, therefore I am.
That could be the tagline for Google Zeitgeist, the company's annual year-in-review package, which gazes back at the previous 12 months and ranks people, places and things—country by country—based on how many people searched for them on Google.
It's a fascinating data set. Who doesn't love a good list, after all? It's also a giant popularity contest, complete with rampant evidence of our collective trashy side. The leaking of Kate Middleton's topless photos was the year's second most-popular "event," behind Hurricane Sandy but ahead of the London Olympics? If you say so! Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was more interesting than American Idol or Homeland? I guess! More than 1 trillion search queries can't be wrong, after all.
The lists are one thing. Putting the data in motion is another. As it did in 2011, the task of translating Zeitgeist into video form this year fell to creative agency Whirled. The resulting spot, below, is supremely satisfying in the way that all such videos are. Distilling a whole year into less than three minutes, packaging the experiences of the world's 7 billion people into a tidy few dozen images—it's irresistible. It's all in there—birth, death, rebirth, the peaks and valleys of human behavior, from hope and resilience to war and persecution. It gives order to everything based on human curiosity, and makes no judgments.
It should come as no surprise that the piece is bookended by Felix Baumgarter's triumphant leap to Earth from the edge of space back in October—the culmination of the Red Bull Stratos project. Ad people in particular should appreciate that placement. The year's most notably grand human achievement was also brand sponsored. How nice.
Whirled founder and creative director Scott Chan tells us a little about how the Zeitgeist video sausage is made: "It's a whole lot of homework and research. As cliché as it might sound, the process for me always starts on Jan. 1. I'm honestly thinking about how we can top ourselves without straying too far from the formula that people have grown to love over the years. Like, for example, I brought on viral remixer extraordinaire Luc Begeron (aka Zapatou), who has been making noise creating these epic supercuts using the best videos the Internet (world) has to offer."
"But things really kick off in late September. Together with the Search team at Google, we spend a solid couple of months reading, watching and cataloging to understand just what happened in the year so that we can figure out the story we want to tell. Then it's just a matter of fitting all the pieces of the puzzle (events) together to tell that story."
It may not be the whole story, but it's the most popular one.
These days, that counts for a lot.