Owners of Google's smart speaker, Home, recently reported hearing ads from the device, particularly about the latest Disney film Beauty and the Beast. The ad was reportedly prompted when users asked Google Home a neat breakdown or summary of their day ahead, a common feature of the speaker.
Google Home Starts Playing Ads
The ad was spoken in Google Assistant's regular voice, which made it appear as part of the whole My Day information roster. Still, it stood out like a sore thumb.
Several Reddit users also reported hearing the ad, and a number of Android users even reported stumbling upon the same ad via Google Assistant on their smartphones, according to The Verge. People were pissed about Google allegedly slipping in an ad inside a device they already paid for. One Redditor even said that "I definitely haven't searched for the film," and yet the ad was still delivered.
Here's a clip of the ad in action:
— brysonmeunier (@brysonmeunier) March 16, 2017
Following the usual summary of information including weather, time, and the user's commute routine, the ad begins:
"By the way, Disney's live action Beauty and The Beast opens today. In this version of the story, Belle is the inventor instead of Maurice. That rings truer if you ask me." It ends with Google letting users ask for more information should they wish.
Google Home currently doesn't support any form of integration with movie ticketing app Fandango and other similar apps. Even if users were piqued by the ad and proceeded to consider buying tickets for the film, Home wouldn't have been able to let users do as such.
Following the negative reaction from a handful of users, Google has since halted spewing Beauty and the Beast ads on the device.
Speaking to Business Insider, a Google spokesperson denied that the Beauty and the Beast ads weren't really ads.
"This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales," the spokesperson said in a statement. Using the terms "beauty" and "be our guest" seems like a tongue-in-cheek jab at the issue, since both terms are associated with the Beauty and the Beast, with "Be Our Guest" being a song in the movie.
The Ads Weren't Ads, Just 'Timely Content'
"This wasn't intended to be an ad," a Google spokesperson said. "What's circulating online was a part of our My Day feature, where after providing helpful information about your day, we sometimes call out timely content."
The spokesperson admitted that Google is still experimenting with that element of the My Day feature, and it could have been implemented better in the case of the Beauty and the Beast ads.
Business Insider reports that Disney didn't pay Google to surface ads for the film, citing a source familiar with the partnership. Google's statement, however, indicates that this may not be the final instance of ads on Home. More like this could possibly arrive in the future. This is, of course, just fine if the information is indeed "timely content," as Google puts it. But there's also the risk of Google slipping in advertising materials dressed as timely updates, as in this case.
Google is, of course, built on advertising, its highest income-generating aspect, in fact. But sneaking in ads without warning is a practice Google knows better not to do, or at least it knows people are wont to shun. Hopefully, it rethinks the whole "timely content" aspect of My Day for it not to appear too intent on pushing out ads to users who probably wouldn't be happy receiving.
At this point, Google needs to inform users if they have a way of opting out of this feature in My Day lest owners of Home feel intruded upon and instead shift to one of Amazon's Echo range of devices, which is powered by Alexa.