Google is not the least bit amused by Burger King's attempt to engage with Google Home smart speakers using the wake phrase "Okay Google" in a new ad campaign. In an interesting twist, Burger King, which did not collaborate with or involve Google in its marketing stunt in any way, claims that Google made changes to prevent the commercial from waking Google Home devices.
Let us back up a moment. The problem with creating ads to showcase smart home speakers like Google Home is that they're constantly listening for wake phrases, even when they come from the television. During the Super Bowl, a 60-second commercial aired promoting the AI assistant powering Google Home, with the phrase "Okay Google" said more than a dozen times. This prompted Google Home devices already in homes to go nuts, and it was a lesson learned for Google.
Apparently Google was not the only one paying attention. So was Burger King, which created a viral video that intentionally invokes Google Home devices. It involves a Burger King employee (or an actor playing one) holding a Whopper while addressing the viewer.
"You’re watching a 15-second Burger King ad, which is unfortunately not enough time to explain all the fresh ingredients in the Whopper sandwich. But I’ve got an idea." The employee then leans into the camera and says, "Okay Google, what is the Whopper burger?"
Anyone watching who owns a Google Home device within earshot will hear the speaker read out a Wikipedia entry on the Whopper, which describes how the burger is made fresh and what toppings it comes with. Or at least that was the case before snarky Internet users edited the entry. Turnabout is fair play, right?
It seems that Google Home devices can now detect when the viral video spits out the wake phrase, which now gets ignored. That is bad news for Burger King, which paid for ad spots tonight during The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live, along with other shows. It is not clear if Burger King can alter the ad so that it works as originally intended.
While a deviously clever tactic, Burger King seems to be crossing a line here. The problem might only worsen as smart speakers and other Internet connected gadgets become more commonplace. It will be interesting to see if advertisers are able to behave themselves, or if this turns into a corporate warfare situation in which companies like Burger King try to push the limit while Google fights back.