Google pulls virtual assistant ad after user outcry

It turns out people don't want to hear about 'Beauty and the Beast' when they ask for their daily agenda

Google Home users got a surprise on Thursday when their virtual assistants cheerily mentioned that the live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” is opening in theaters this weekend.

The ad seems to pop up when users ask for a rundown of their day, which kicks off the Home’s “My Day” feature. That feature is supposed to offer users information about the weather, their calendars and relevant news. But at the end of the rundown, the Google Assistant offered the following unsolicited tidbit, according to a video posted to Twitter by Bryson Meunier :

“By the way, Disney’s live action 'Beauty and The Beast' opens today,” it says. “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 something about Belle.”

After users started talking about the message, Google put out a statement saying it “isn’t an ad.” A few hours later on Thursday, the company put out a second statement saying that the movie promotion “wasn’t intended to be an ad.” It’s unclear how the content was different from an advertisement, considering that it was a message inserted into users’ briefings with the aim of getting them to go see a movie.

A Google representative didn’t respond when asked if Disney or another of its partners paid for the message placement. The “Beauty and the Beast” message has since been removed.

“We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case,” Google’s second statement concluded.

This incident highlights one of the possible future revenue streams for virtual assistants, as Meunier noted in his tweet. For example, Google and other virtual assistant makers could take payments in exchange for promoting certain results in response to users’ queries, in the same way search advertising works today.

Companies have already tried to use virtual assistant integrations as marketing tools. NBC recently released a skill for Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant that lets users ask Alexa for information about upcoming guests on “The Tonight Show” and listen to host Jimmy Fallon’s monologue. Warner Bros. released a game for Alexa that lets users try to find out who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents as part of its promotion work for “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

The big difference between those Alexa integrations and the Google Home ad is that users have to opt into the former and then choose to engage with them. By contrast, Google Home users weren’t asked whether they wanted to hear about “Beauty and the Beast."

Thursday was a banner day for virtual assistant updates. On the same day, Amazon announced that Alexa will be available to iPhone users through the online retailer’s app.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Google

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?