Google Mixes Media In The Mobile Ad For Its Search App

To promote its search app, Google goosed the mobile display ad form with rich media and 3-D printing.

Today's mobile display ad just can't handle tomorrow's tech, which powers Google's search app. So to show off new features such as search by voice, location, and Google Goggles, Google beefed up its mobile ad experience with everything from rich media digital wizardry to actual 3-D printed sets for its new "Uncover Your World" campaign.

"Our search app had gotten to a place where we needed to show off all its uses," says Clay Bavor, PM Director for Mobile Display Ads at Google. The advertising challenge lay not just in demonstrating exactly how the search functions work but doing so within the product’s natural medium. So "Uncover Your World" was developed as an immersive digital experience that brings to life the Google search app via Google’s rich media platform, AdMob (which it acquired last year), and 3-D modeling and printing to add dimension to the visual elements in the ad.

The rich media platform allows for integration of inline audio and video with other phone features like the accelerometer (which reacts when the device is being tilted) and paralaxing (which moves images around in front of a stationary background). A short intro video offers users broad, sweeping views of a nondescript city block, rendered with 3-D modeling against an out-of-focus metropolitan backdrop. In a visual metaphor of the transformative effect Google’s search app has on one’s surroundings, a few of the buildings get splashed with vibrant colors (naturally, these are the company’s signature red, yellow, green, and blue).

Users can then swipe across the screen and tap on newly "painted" buildings to explore practical uses of the app. Each such expedition unlocks a new game involving the app’s core features. For instance, in "Shooting Gallery" targets appear—each one an object Goggles either can recognize (art, bar codes, text, etc.) or cannot recognize (people, animals, silverware, etc.). The user scores points for tapping the recognizable items and is docked points for tapping unrecognizable ones. Each challenge pits users against others who've already played the game, turning the task of learning features into a competition.

In order to create a visually arresting ad that was also highly interactive, Google tapped digital production studio Grow Interactive. The shop spent seven weeks creating the look of the ad, arranging its visuals in painstaking detail to look precisely imprecise. The clean lines of photorealistic buildings are offset by slight touches of lifelike differentiation—the crooked lamppost, the chair that’s askew—which gives it the organic feel of a place one stumbles upon.

The entire project had to be modeled in 3-D software and every scene and interface element was 3-D printed in miniature and assembled into a 10-foot set, which was then used to capture all components in stop motion (even the paint drips used 3-D printing).

The contrast of physical models in a rich media environment was the only way to achieve just the right effect, though. Drew Ungvarsky, Creative Director at Grow, explains: "Google has a great tradition of representing its technology in the analog world, and so 3-D printing gave us an opportunity to continue that tradition but in a new and unique way."

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