Historical Analysis: “Jess Time”

This Google Chrome commercial, entitled “Jess Time”, first aired in September 2012 and is from the brand’s “The Web is what you make of it” campaign. The ad depicts a series of brief conversations between a young girl, Jess, who has just started her freshman year at college, and her father, Elliot. They communicate through Google Chrome’s various features, using video chat, synced calendars, and instant messaging to stay in touch. Beyond the ordinary challenges that come with moving away from home and starting at a new school, the commercial reveals quickly that Jess’ mother has died. In the minute-long ad we see Jess and Elliot helping one another adjust to their new lives.

The commercial is easily identifiable as a modern example of advertising. Not only is the technology being advertised contemporary, but also the way they are advertising Google Chrome is reflective of today’s advertising styles. The ad tells a story about the experience of using the product rather than blatantly declaring what it is selling. This is representative of the modern awareness advertisers have that we are all “savvy consumers” who will not blindly trust an ad because we know the intention behind it. Advertisers can no longer simply tell consumers to buy something, but have to explain why and how it would enhance their lives. Furthermore, because our world is so cluttered with advertising, companies are constantly trying to construct ads that are not simply time-fillers but entertaining themselves. To stand out from the competition and keep eyes on their ad, Google writes a storyline that draws the audience in.

This ad is also an example of the way the transformational function of advertising can be even more powerful than the informational function of advertising. What the product can be used for is apparent, but more importantly we are given context for the experience that surrounds the product. We are encouraged to value and increase interpersonal communication. This is an example of “dematerialization”, where sending a message about the lifestyle and experience around the product is more important than conveying specifics about the product itself.

“Jess Time” also depicts how advertising is used as a cultural intermediary, attaching meaning to a good and conveying that meaning to the consumer. In this case Google seems to be saying that Google Chrome’s technology supports the maintenance of relationships in a highly mobile society. Jackson Lears’ concept of the “therapeutic ethos” is also discernable here. The challenges of living far away from the people you love and adjusting to new environments can be “fixed” by Google’s video chatting and instant messaging features. The ad conveys that our lives can be made better with this technology.

The ad opens on a computer screen moving into frame with the Google chrome logo and the word “chrome” placed front and center. The most important elements in this ad, however, are the characters and the storyline that follow the logo. Merely six seconds into the commercial we are made aware that the mother has recently died. Immediately, we feel a sense of sympathy and fondness for the characters whose faces we have yet to see. Seeing small moments of their interactions with each other, we begin to create a picture of what kind of people Jess and Elliot are. It is a simple narrative that the audience can understand easily and one that elicits emotion from the viewer. Seeing Elliot struggle to pick out a tie and Jess introduce her father to her boyfriend, we are watching them take small steps to move forward with their lives. Having been made aware of the struggles they have been through, we want to know that they are going to be okay – and Google tells us, that with the help of their product, they will.

– Megan G.

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