When is an ad not an ad? When it appears on Google Home, apparently. That’s what the search giant is claiming after some users of its smart speaker heard a promotion for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast remake while it announced their daily schedule.
When asked “Tell me about my day,” Google’s assistant finished the briefing with what sounds suspiciously like a 15-second ad. “By the way, Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast opens today. In this version of the story, Belle is the inventor instead of Maurice. That rings truer if you ask me. For some more movie fun, ask me to tell you something about Belle,” it said.
But Google insists what people heard isn’t actually an advertisement. "This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. A source familiar with the partnership says no money was exchanged between Disney and Google for the ‘ad.’
A few hours after videos of the promo started appearing online, Google removed it and issued another statement.
“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.”
Google may have quickly removed this promo, but talk of “new ways to surface unique content” has an ominous ring to it. With ads infiltrating pretty much every part of our digital experiences, it wouldn’t be surprising if they eventually made their way onto smart speakers.