Google wants Canadians to marvel at its Pixel 6 with Simu Liu

Who: Google Canada (Pixel brand), with Cossette for creative, Essence for digital media, PHD for traditional media, and Media Profile for PR.

What: A new ad promoting the tech giant’s newest handset—and specifically its Live Translate feature—starring Canadian actor, and Marvel Cinematic Universe star, Simu Liu. The ad is entirely in Mandarin, but is running across English-language channels with subtitles. It ladders up to the Pixel’s global campaign, “For All You Are.”

When & Where: The campaign is online now, with a Jan. 24 debut on English-language channels including TSN, Sportsnet, HGTV and W network, as well as Chinese-language stations such as OMNI TV. It’s being supported by out-of-home in major markets, running for the next two months.

Why: The spot is promoting Live Translate, a key feature of the Pixel 6 that enables users to translate in-person conversations into one of 45 different languages. “It’s a really nice way to highlight the [phone’s] functionality,” said Andrew Rapsey, Google Canada’s head of product marketing and brand partnerships—hardware, platforms and ecosystems. “Mandarin is the third-most spoken language in Canada, so we decided it was about time we used it in an ad.”

The goal is also to build awareness around the Pixel brand, which is a relatively new entrant in a market dominated by the likes of Apple and Samsung. “We wanted it to look and feel different from a typical phone ad,” said Rapsey.

The celebrity approach: Liu, who rocketed to global fame by playing the titular character in last year’s MCU movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, is one of two high-profile brand ambassadors for the Pixel 6 in Canada. He’s joined by Montreal tennis star Leylah Fernandez, who was named the face of the brand in Quebec earlier this month (see both of their ads below).

This marks the first time that Google has leaned heavily into celebrity endorsements for its Canadian marketing, with both Liu and Fernandez representing the notion of inclusive tech that is a fundamental brand pillar for Google. Fernandez speaks three languages while Liu has been a strong advocate for Asian representation in the film industry.

“Rather than us talk about the inclusive tech that’s built into this phone [we thought] let’s have some people who actually embody representation and inclusivity do it for us,” said Rapsey.

It’s been a big week for Liu, who is also featured in a new global campaign for Twitter. “He’s blowing up,” said Rapsey. “He’s just a tremendous guy and everything Canadians would want from their superheroes.”

How: The spot features Liu sitting on a couch, talking about how instead of a job at Google like his parents wanted, he’s appearing in an ad for the Pixel 6.

“That’s got to count for something, right?” he says before the spot cuts to his parents sitting behind the director, shaking their heads no. Liu then goes on to explain why the ad is in Mandarin, explaining that the new handset is the most fluent Pixel phone ever. His mom, unimpressed, tells her son to sit up straight. “I can’t work like this,” says Liu.

The Fernandez ad features the tennis star using her Pixel 6 to help her field questions from international journalists and using it to order food in a foreign restaurant. “I’m pretty good with my backhand, but I’m a pro with my Pixel 6,” she tells the camera.

And we quote: “The thing that Simu and Leylah give us is that they’re a real embodiment of our vision and belief. We know that Canadians love our hometown stories and root for their success on the global stage,” said Rapsey. “Our hope is that people are more interested in checking this phone out now that they know that Simu and Leylah have authentically enjoyed their experience with it.”


Chris Powell