The rivalry between Google’s Pixel phones and Apple’s iPhone goes back a fair time, with the Search giant often taking pokes at Cupertino’s cell supremo over the years. But what if we tell you that their relationship has finally taken a turn? And not just a simple left or right, but a proper U-turn. The brands have come so far away from the hostility of their previous equation that Google has recently released a series of ads to announce that the Pixel and iPhone have become BPFs – best phones forever, which is basically their smartphone spin on BFF (best friends forever).


Hooray, the Pixel, and the iPhone are friends!

The title of the campaign seems as unusual as the sun rising from the west. After all, these are two tech behemoths that have been going head-to-head for so many years now. Well, behind the simple title, which claims the two rival phones have now become best friends, there is a twist. Google has used the BPF disguise to take digs at the iPhone and to basically make fun of all the things that the iPhone cannot do or is (supposed to be) bad at. So basically, the campaign is your regular competitive ad campaign which aims to pull down its competitor while simultaneously highlighting what is good about their own product.

Interestingly, the campaign might have taken some inspiration from the legendary Get a Mac (also known as Mac vs. PC) campaign by Apple (oh, the irony) started in 2002. That campaign featured two people, one as Mac and the other as PC. Google’s campaign has two phones in their native form, one the iPhone and the other the Pixel. But that’s where the similarities between the two end. We would even say Google has taken a much too simple route in this campaign for our liking.

Or are they? They ain’t quite Mac vs. PC either

In the Get a Mac campaign, although the Mac always came out looking better, it was not like the PC had given up on all hopes of winning. It often spoke for itself and what it could do and was trying to make a case for how it was actually better than Mac. And that made sense. No product would start spouting negatives about itself.

But that is exactly what happens in the BPF ad campaign. The campaign is spread across five ads, ranging from a little more than a minute to a bit more than a minute and a half.

Some people might enjoy the concept of two superphone rivals talking to each other like friends, but we thought the ads in the campaign were, for the most part, quite dull. What seems like two best phones (friends) forever spending some quality time together soon turns into a pity party of one – the iPhone, which seems to need a therapist more than a friend, given its lack of belief in itself, notwithstanding its staggering popularity (“When I was your age, people were showing me off to their friends,” the iPhone groans in one ad).

All the ads in the campaign follow the same plotline – the iPhone starts to feel down (often literally, a sly dig at its battery life) about all the things it cannot do and which the Pixel can effortlessly manage. It even runs down its own blue iMessage bubbles! Many might see it as a friend confiding in another friend, but for the most part, it came across as very unconvincing, not least when you consider the kind of success the iPhone has enjoyed (it should be the Pixel that is feeling bad about itself in that department).

Draw stick hands, put googly eyes…a rather plain campaign with 90s feels!

The fact that the ads basically just listed out what was great about the Pixel range and how the iPhone was not quite there in terms of being as technologically advanced in some areas seemed a bit too plain as a core idea. The copy does not really help, either. We would have preferred perhaps a slightly more clever back-and-forth or even a more creative take on the same idea to make the campaign a bit more interesting. Unfortunately, Google has chosen to go down the very basic, very well-traveled “compare products and show we are always better” ad path.

The very concept of two phones talking to each other in ad campaigns is, in fact, quite the late 90s when brands used to humanize their products, making them walk and talk. The only thing keeping this campaign from being an ad of that era was probably sticking hands and legs poking out of their sides and googly eyes (no pun intended).

The mush does not work: a rather passive approach to competitive advertising

It is not as if the campaign is all bad. There were elements that we did think were kind of neat. The fact that the ads used a very robotic Siri-like voice to represent the iPhone and Google Assistant voice to represent the Pixel is a clever touch. There is also a subtle reference to Ted Lasso, Apple TV’s hit series, although it does cause the iPhone’s battery to get drained – the Pixel, of course rescues it by lying down on it and using its reverse charging feature! While how Google chose to highlight the USPs of the Pixel was not the most creative delivery we have ever seen, we do give the brand extra points for highlighting the phone’s best features in a simple and clear manner.

Google had the opportunity to be really savage and creative with this campaign. We went through ad after ad after ad, hoping to hear at least one sharp, aggressive one-liner that would really embarrass the iPhone. But Google often used the same old, threadbare information that people have been hearing for and quite honestly have made their peace with over the years – the battery, the USB Type C port, the photography ….and so on. The whole presentation seemed quite passive, which is not the way one hopes to bring out a competitive ad. There was too much mush and not enough sharpness here. Even most of the mush seemed faux – imagine the highest-selling phone in the world going on and on about how inadequate it is! Apple made the PC fight for itself, Google has made the iPhone a study of self-pity.

In fact, Google could have highlighted the very same strong points of the Pixel it showcases in the campaign in a run-of-the-mill ad campaign. It did not need to make the Pixel and iPhone best friends. The Best Phones Forever concept sounds interesting initially but ends up sounding a little phony, The iPhone and Pixel might be among the best phones forever, but this is one friendship that does not click in the Google ad sense. Pun unintended.

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