Google comes ‘clutch’ for the Pixel 8

Who: Google Canada (with Bell Canada); Cossette for strategy and creative; Steam for production (directed by Matt Atkinson); Saints Editorial and Art Jail for post-production; Oso for audio.

What: “Pixel in the Clutch,” a campaign introducing Google’s new Pixel 8 smartphone, featuring Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes and announcer Jack Armstrong.

When & Where: The campaign is live now, with a series of 30s and 15s running across TV/online video and social. They’re being complemented by a TikTok component that is still in development.

Why: For the most part, smartphones offer the same basic functionality—camera, maps, email, web browser, etc.—but the campaign aims to get people to consider the Pixel 8 by showing it has distinct features, such as “audio magic eraser” and “magic eraser.” Secondary messaging is around how the device’s capabilities are enhanced on the Bell network.

Despite Google’s stature as a powerhouse global brand, it remains a challenger in the smartphone category—well behind leaders like Apple and Samsung. But Jacob Greer, group creative director with Cossette, said there’s also an opportunity to reach people who may be looking to move to a new device, either within the Android space or among iPhone users who’ve been on the phone for years, and might may be ready for a change.

“The iPhone is now [on its 15th version] and people are on the iPhone because it’s kind of the phone,” said Greer, a self-admitted Pixel convert. “If we can go out with the right expression of how helpful [the Pixel] is, and how great the technology is, hopefully we can turn some heads and get people to make a switch.”

How: The creative approach builds on last year’s Pixel 7 advertising featuring Barnes, “What’s Good Canada?” That work showed the young Raptors star using his Pixel to capture images of people and places around his adopted city. “This time around, we wanted to hero the Pixel and its features a little more, but make sure that Scottie had a purpose,” said Greer.

The solution was to demonstrate the Pixel 8’s functionality through a sports lens, with Barnes and Armstrong sitting at a Google-branded desk and providing play-by-play of “clutch” moments in a user’s life—such as a mom attempting to capture her baby’s first words, a group of people enjoying a weekend getaway in the country, and another group having a night out with friends. In each scenario, the Pixel 8 helps its users snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

“The [creative] idea is real life moments where a feature of the Pixel is the exact right thing,” said Greer.

“Baby’s First Words,” for example, shows a mom attempting to capture a video of her child’s first words, only to be thwarted by someone using a blender in the background. “Oh, drowned out by the blender. Rookie move,” says Barnes. “So sad,” adds Armstrong with a rueful shake of his head.

The spot then shows the mom using the Pixel 8’s “audio magic eraser” function, which enables users to reduce distracting sounds such as wind, people talking in the background, or, yes, even a blender, to enhance their video. In this case, viewers are shown that the baby’s first words are a variation of Armstrong’s signature call, “Hellooooo.” (His “get that gah-bage outta here” also appears in another spot.)

The spots make liberal use of sports/basketball terminology to connect the brand to the announcers and the Raptors, who, despite being several years removed from their championship season, remain enormously popular among Torontonians. “They’re such a great brand in the city, people have such affinity for them, and they come with some cachet,” said Greer. “It’s a great way to connect with people.”

A full line-up of creative:  The campaign is launching with an array of creative assets: Two :30s, and three :15s (one a cutdown).

Greer said the goal was to give each of the Pixel 8’s distinguishing features a moment in the spotlight, while also alleviating the wear-out factor that can come from a single spot being played over and over. “Having a breadth of assets helps keep that fatigue down,” he said. “We had people come up last year, and say ‘You know that Scottie spot? I can recite it.'”

And we quote: “Every team needs a star player who can step up in the clutch when the game is on the line. And every fan needs a phone they can rely on in those make-or-break moments of daily life. The comedic chemistry between Scottie Barnes and Jack Armstrong brings those everyday moments to life in a way we think fans are going to love.” — Chris Henry, senior product marketing manager, devices and services, Google Canada

Chris Powell