Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google Says That the Ad That’s Running on Some Home Devices Isn’t an Ad

CaptainCapitoni” on Reddit:

This morning while I was getting ready for work, I did my usual “Okay Google, good morning”. After information about the time and weather, my google home said something along the lines of

By the way, Beauty and The Beast opens in theaters today. In this version, Belle is the inventor. Sounds more like it to me.

I’m not a fan of ads on this device. I don’t believe I’ve done any searching for the film either, so I think it’s not due to perceived interest. Has anyone else heard similar ads?

Another user, “drak0bsidian”, says that they also heard the ad, and Bryson Meunier posted a recording of it on Twitter.

The Verge’s Chris Welch asked Google about it, and they provided him with some grade-A bullshit in response:

This isn’t an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales.

I don’t care how much storytelling tinsel an advertisement happens to be wrapped in — an ad is an ad.

I looked through Google’s support documentation for Home and even downloaded the app looking for anything that would specifically state that the device could be used for advertising. Nothing on the Google Home website implies that ads would start running on the device. The Google Home FAQ only vaguely nods at anything promotional on the device:

First and foremost, we use data to make our services faster, smarter, and more useful to you, such as by providing better search results and timely traffic updates. Data also helps protect you from malware, phishing, and other suspicious activity. For example, we warn you when you try to visit dangerous websites. Also, on surfaces where we show ads, we use data to show you ads that are relevant and useful, and to keep our services free for everyone.

But there’s no mention of whether Google Home is an advertising “surface”, and audio ads are not one of the types shown in any category on Google‘s advertising site.

Maybe users will react to this like they would towards the ads on radio stations or Spotify’s free tier, but I wouldn’t want this in my apartment. Imagine waking up in the morning and asking Google about your new emails, only to hear it tell you about a new movie or some product. Gross.

Update: Drew Pickard on Twitter:

RE: the text of Google’s response to the Beauty and the Beast “Ad”

It’s another ad. “BE OUR GUEST” is a song from the movie.

wtf

Can’t wait to meet Google’s new PR team of Gaston and a talking candlestick.

Update: According to Tim Bradshaw, Google has removed the ad.