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How Google Made Martin Van Buren A Famous U.S. President

January 14, 2013

I read a post by fashion illustrator Edwina Owens Elliott in which she had high praise for a commercial created by advertising agency Venables Bell & Partners to promote Google’s Search app.

The commercial’s a scant 30 seconds long. A little girl springs the news on her mother at breakfast that it’s Dress Like A President Day at school and she’s supposed to come as Martin Van Buren. Martin Van Who?? After using her Google app, Mom gets to work.

I loved the commercial. I was struck by how it incorporates the key elements of effective sequential art: good writing, storyboarding (working out the frame-by-frame sequence), pacing, key facial expressions, editing out whatever’s not essential.

The commercial also demonstrates the unique power of humor to connect with people and win their affection. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

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What do you think? Does laughter have a unique ability to disarm and persuade? Had you ever heard of Martin Van Buren? Are you ready to see big fluffy side-whiskers come back in style?? Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2013 2:13 AM

    Well, of course, I’ve heard of Martin Van Buren. I simply forgot how adorable he was in the back seat of a car. I enjoy fun commercials, but I don’t always remember later what was the product. That could happen with this commercial, because it’s so cute. I might think later that it was a commercial for an iPad or other tablet because of the prominence of said item. They should have had me in their focus group. 😉


    • January 21, 2013 12:21 PM

      A focus group without Maddie Cochere is a very unfocused group– that’s my learned opinion, anyway!!

      As always, you make an excellent point: I, too, have enjoyed many an ad with no clear recollection of what was being pitched. One can be too clever for one’s own good– a lesson you’d think I would have learned by now… : (

      P.S. The ad would have been better if little Martina Van B. had been holding up a Susan Hunter mystery and pointing to it… : )


      • January 25, 2013 12:18 AM

        You are so funny! I had my husband watch the video a couple of times. Two days later I asked him what was being sold in the ad. He looked very confused and asked, “Cotton?” LOL!! All he could remember was the cutie in the back seat with cotton on her face. I still find that ad very clever and adorable, and I’ve watched it quite a bit.


        • February 6, 2013 8:59 PM

          Yes, it’s funny: years ago, ads were pretty boring and heavy-handed– but at least you knew what was being hawked. Nowadays, cleverness is all, but much of the message seems to be getting lost– is a conundrum, grasshopper!

          But the ad gave me an idea for your next book: Hunter is pursued by bad guys into a mall; she slips into a drugstore, pulls the cotton out of every bottle of aspirin, weaves them together into a wig, and escapes disguised as Martha Washington!! Oh, wait– do aspirin bottles still come with cotton?? More research may be necessary… : P

          Glad you enjoyed the ad, always great to see you, Maddie! : )


        • February 7, 2013 12:34 AM

          I can report aspirin bottles do, indeed, still come with cotton. And this is so funny, but my new book starts in a mall with a bad guy targeting Susan. Great minds think alike! 🙂


  2. January 15, 2013 7:27 PM

    I’ve never heard about Martin Van Buren. 😀

    I remembered when I was trying to use this Google app with a friend of mine. We searched for foxes and Google came up with things related to sex…hahahahahahahaahahaha

    What a funny!


    • January 21, 2013 12:05 PM

      Your Google app experience made me laugh, Inge– I think I understand why Google didn’t ask you to be in their ad!! : )


      • January 21, 2013 12:29 PM

        hahahahahaahaha…yes, now I understand why they didn’t pick me…hahahahahahaahahahaha


  3. January 15, 2013 10:29 PM

    When humor is appropriate – and in this case it is – then that will get the target audience’s attention. The ad is excellent. It’s convincing in that it shows you how quickly you can get the info you want. I loved the surprise reveal at the end. You have a real knack for humor, Mark.

    I also get hooked on those intergenerational, feel-good commercials. 🙂


    • January 16, 2013 7:49 AM

      Thanks, Judy! Humor, feel-goodness, incredible beauty and charisma– you know, it occurs to me that you and I would be perfect for one of those commercials… : P


      • January 16, 2013 7:21 PM

        You, maybe. I have a face made for radio. (A job I was in for 15 years.) 😆


        • January 17, 2013 10:11 AM

          And people would listen to your face and think: I’ll bet she has a beautiful voice. Or something like that… : )


  4. January 16, 2013 7:51 AM

    The look on the kid’s face at 0:25 is just priceless. Great commercial !


    • January 16, 2013 1:02 PM

      Thanks so much, Vandy, always a special treat to see you here.

      The look on the kid’s face is very similar to the look on my own face. Clearly I need to get more sleep. Or another cup of coffee, maybe.

      Judging from the me-as-a-kid photos on your blog, you would have been perfect for the role!! : )


  5. robpixaday permalink
    January 16, 2013 9:03 AM

    BWAHAHAHAH!!!!!! That’s terrific!!!! Not a second wasted, fast-paced, to the point, and adorable. LOVE the face-fluff!
    Humor can be incredibly powerful (for good and bad).

    I’m so happy you shared this, Mark!
    Thank you!


    • January 16, 2013 12:58 PM

      Many thanks, Robin! I knew you’d appreciate it because you’re fast-paced, to the point, and adorable… : )

      And the only seconds you waste are when you’re taking a Reeses break, and we all know that’s not time wasted, that’s time well spent!! : P

      Glad you enjoyed it, hooray for face-fluff!! : )


  6. spinoza1111 permalink
    January 16, 2013 8:06 PM

    I think the kid is a brat. She walks slowly and creepily towards the kitchen plainly intending to undercut her Mom’s morning rush hour authority by saying, in a tone that indicates that it’s Mom’s fault, either that it is “Dress Like a President Day” or for not somehow intuiting that it is DLAPD, which contemporary Moms’ claims to be in America or Britain “super moms’, or in Asia to be “tiger moms”) imply Mom would: Mom would know it to be DLAPD far in advance of the blessed event and would thus be assembling the costume the night before.

    However it is clear to me that the kid in question has been raised to never take responsibility or to time-manage therefore her tone says “it’s dress like a President day and it’s all your fault.”

    But what’s especially egregious is the Evil on display from a company/ that promises not to be Evil. You see, the only value added by Google is the provision, NOT so much as a “knowledge base” or “knowledge map” despite Google’s desire to publicize new versions of software that incorporate existing functionality and add new features, but of simple image scanning,

    Google doesn’t provide Mom with pinking shears, or a sewing machine, or the skill needed to use either. It expropriates mom by way of flattery.


    • January 21, 2013 12:04 PM

      I’m extending a digital hand across cyberspace– allow me to shake your digital digits and compliment you on one of the most outrageous, erudite, and witty comments I’ve come across. I was laughing all the way thru it! ‘Tis a work of art, a masterpiece of curmudgeonliness!!

      You’ve totally shattered all my innocent illusions, of course, but it was a thoroughly delightful experience. Thanks, and do stop by again!! : )


  7. January 22, 2013 1:26 PM

    Ah come on now — Martin Van who? This video is hilarious. Thanks for sharing that there’s an app for that too.


    • January 23, 2013 8:04 AM

      Ha! Glad you enjoyed it, TT. I don’t recall ever having a Dress Like A President Day back in school, but I do remember eating breakfast cereal in my pajamas… : )


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