The Real Game: Google vs. Microsoft

by Jana Ferguson, 05 Feb 2019


While this Super Bowl may have been a snooze-fest (thanks to both the game and halftime performance), the commercials hit the mark, providing entertainment, encouragement, inspiration — and in some cases, utter bemusement.

My favorite (and least favorite) spots involved a tech-centric theme: the betterment of people’s lives. Who hit the mark? Google and Microsoft, but in decidedly different ways. Google underscored the connection among strangers with their most translated search terms, “How Are You?,” “Thank You,” and “I Love You.” It was a surprisingly unifying message. Google’s second commercial, meanwhile, told a powerful story about enabling veterans, cultivating the emotional seed planted in the first ad.

And then there’s the Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller ad, being hailed as one of the best commercials of the evening (second only to Bud Light and Game of Thrones’ mash-up ad, which truly surprised and thrilled beer drinkers and fantasy lovers alike). As with Google, Microsoft showed how their technology made lives better, giving children with disabilities a chance to be a part of the gaming world just like any other child. It was both moving and memorable.

So, whose enablement ad missed the mark? Hands down: Verizon, as they tried to leverage sentiment for first responders and demonstrate how their technology enabled them to do their jobs. “First responders answer the call,” Verizon reminded us. “It’s our responsibility to make sure they get it.” The message is muddled. Is Verizon taking credit for first responder success because of their phone coverage? It left a lot of people throwing out the F-bomb and talking about switching providers.

But many viewers likely didn’t realize that this was Verizon’s response to criticism over having throttled the phone lines of California’s firefighters after they reached their monthly data limits. First responders had to use their own personal devices and services because Verizon reduced the department’s speed. The situation resulted in a wave of bad press and sentiment towards the telecom giant. 

While all three tech titans tried to demonstrate how their products could break down barriers, leaving viewers with a sense of hope and well being, only Google and Microsoft truly hit the mark. Lesson learned, Verizon? Don’t use the Super Bowl stage to remind people how you hindered first responders from doing their jobs; thirty seconds isn’t enough time to change that story.

Regardless, we think the ads stole the show at this year’s Super Bowl. And as marketers, we’re totally cool with that.

Keep reading to find out if we thought the spots lived up to their hype. Plus, get our quick take on the best and worst ads of the evening