Homeward Bound: A Great Long-Form Ad For Google Maps

Google maps icon largerOne of the most popular articles on the AdWeek site today showcases what is essentially an ad for Google Maps/Earth. It features an Indian man (Saroo Brierley) who as a young child falls asleep on a train with his brother. His brother doesn’t wake him up at their designated stop.

When he later does wake up the train is empty. We don’t know what happens next except that Brierley, who narrates the three-minute video, says he “was adopted out to Australia.” For the next 26 years he thinks about his family of origin back in India.

As a young adult he uses Google Maps and Google Earth to help him jog his memory and find his way back to his original home in India — and his mother. It’s moving.

It’s also a great ad for Google and Google Maps that plays to the aspirations of the internet and digital products: connecting people and solving real-world problems.

It’s a great ad because of its emotional content, because it’s true and because it tells a compelling story. It’s essentially a long-form TV ad. And it reminds us of the high-minded heart of Google that still beats somewhere within the machine.

Most online video advertising and, indeed, most online ad campaigns in general are worthless. This one is powerful and very well done. I’m not asking to be emotionally manipulated at every turn. But it’s unfortunate that most online ads don’t rise to this level of quality.

Click here to view the embedded video.