Facebook Enlists Celeb Moms to Charm You Into Calling Your Mother More With Portal

Featuring moms of Jonah Hill, Serena Williams, Dwayne Johnson and more

Facebook's new ad for Portal features the mothers of several celebrities. YouTube/Facebook
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Facebook wants you to view its Portal video conferencing device as a great way to talk with your mom, regardless of how famous you—or she—might be.

Ahead of Mother’s Day next month, the social media company’s new ad attempts to empathize with the moms of the world who don’t hear from their children on their special day. However, instead of packing it with a cast full of celebrities, the spot features the very moms who made them—and Neil Patrick Harris.

The commercial, “Portal Mother’s Day Support Group,” features the mothers of Harris, Venus and Serena Williams, Snoop Dogg, Dwayne Johnson, Jonah Hill and Odell Beckham Jr. The spot strikes a similar tone to one Facebook released last fall for its Oculus Go virtual ready headset by using a humorous, lighthearted approach to showcase a technology that’s still foreign to most consumers.

The 75-second spot subtly highlights Portal’s ability to track users around the room with its wide-angle lens, a feature that allows anyone to meander within a certain area without adjusting the device.

The spot is a funny—and timely—way to promote the device, but it also comes at a time when the software-turned-hardware company continues to deal with issues about digital privacy. And while many of those issues are focused on Facebook’s flagship app, Portal isn’t without its own problems.

Soon after the device debuted last fall, Recode reported that Facebook’s policies allow it to collect in-device data for targeting users with ads on other Facebook properties. Just this month, Facebook was awarded a patent for technology that would allow its software to scan photos and send that data to advertisers—perhaps opening the door for Facebook to someday use that same computer-vision tech to scan a video conference call between families and friends.

While Portal’s parent company’s issues have perhaps stunted its own growth, recently slashed prices for its Mother’s Day sale might help spur sales. Right now, the smaller version is on sale from $199 to $99, while the larger is discounted from $349 to $249.

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.