Parisian love: how words can even outsell pictures, action and animation

Posted by Harry Mills on 21 December 2016 | Comments

Imagine you’re the Ad Director of a large advertising agency. You’ve been commissioned to create an engaging television commercial for an online search tool. Your instructions: Create a vivid commercial that will emotionally resonate with the audience.

You wonder how you can build a visual and auditory appeal. Will it be with action, sound, music or colour?

You quietly groan. Search engines are among the least emotional products you can comprehend. What’s sexy about a technology that is about links, indexes, and page ranks.

Yet, a 2010 Super Bowl ad by Google called “Parisian Love” was rated the top choice of the 60 commercials by marketing professors at Michigan State University.

What made the ad remarkable was it was not created by a traditional ad agency; it was created on the cheap by a small Google in-house design team.

The tiny Google creative team created a love story using Google word searches. There are no humans, pictures, animals, or animation. The ad shows the phrases entered into the search bar and the results that emerge.

The ad in fact consists of lots of text. Indeed much of the text is ­­­­­irrelevant, as it is when you do a real Google search. But despite quick screen changes the searches move from suggestion to suggestion, so viewers can easily follow the emerging story.

Neuromarketing company Sands Research conducted a study to measure how people responded emotionally and physically to the ad. Of all the sixty 2010 Super Bowl ads, Google’s Parisian Love, ranked fourth in terms of what Sands Research calls “neuro engagement.”

The fact that a low cost ad consisting mostly of text could outscore high budget ads using evocative imagery, sounds and production values surprised many.

But the evidence is clear, according to neuromarketing expert and author of Brainfluence Roger Dooley, “text beats rich media when it tells a story.” Such is the power of narrative.

The human mind can’t resist the appeal of a good story. Stories are addictive. George Marshall, an expert on influence tells us “Stories perform a fundamental cognitive function. They are the means by which the emotional brain makes sense of the information collected by the rational brain. People may hold information in the form of data and figures but their beliefs about it are held entirely in the form of stories.”