Google Fakes A Pizzeria Just to Test Out New Advertising Strategies

In search of the “perfect crunch” in your next pizza? You won’t get it from Google.

Doctor Fork may have had people’s mouths watering in Google’s recent ad campaigns that were created with the help of famous food brand, Nestle, and Ryan Elder, associate professor in marketing at Brigham Young University.

Google’s plan? Not to fool people into ordering pizza, but to see how many would want to try.

Why was Doctor Fork created?

The fake Doctor Fork pizza brand was all created in the name of research as Google sought out answers to questions in two broad categories:

  • The effect of sensory cues on ad effectiveness
  • Man versus food, or how much presence humans require in food ads

The whole idea was dreamed up by the Unskippable Labs team at Google. The team has been testing the effectiveness of ads in all sorts of compelling ways, but this is among the top.

Did you see Doctor Fork on YouTube?

The faux brand was put on full display with the help of stock footage that was used to craft 33 different ads. They were all shown on YouTube to more than 20 million drooling expressions.

Ben Jones is the man behind it, acting as the Creative Director of Unskippable Labs. He explained that advertisers rely on certain axioms that have honestly never been put to the test–until now.

One of those famous axioms is that a good advertiser shouldn’t expect to see any good results if they have a person chew food and look into the camera. That’s simply something that shouldn’t be done, or so advertisers thought.

Ben said that this is seen as the “third rail” so no one ever puts a person chewing food and looking into the camera into a real advertisement. Because of that, no one really knows if it’s truly something that should be avoided.

By creating a fake pizza brand, Ben said that their team instantly had the “freedom to be wrong” in that they could do all the axiom testing they wanted without having to fear that a real brand was at risk of getting a bad name.

Ben Jones said that, while he might not be able to chew and look right at the camera, Doctor Fork could do anything he pleases. The “unbranded” ads could go wrong in any way they pleased, and that gave the team the opportunity to push their advertising strategies in new directions that real brands never would.

How Doctor Fork Proved Effective

One of the most effective aspects of the Doctor Fork project was that YouTube gave the team a way to put their test ads in front of a real audience of millions of people. This beats a small focus group any day of the week.

Here’s a summary of the findings:

Full Immersion Required

The advertisements ran under the Doctor Fork campaign proved that immersive and multi-sensory experiences can drive better recall than a single sensory experience.

The implication of this is that food ads need to stimulate all of the senses, using the full potential that text, visual, and auditory cues provide. The pop and fizzle of a soda can, for instance, is a great way to do it.

Separate Visual from Text

The Doctor Fork campaign discovered that text should be separated from visual input and that doing so leads to an increase in both favorability and recall. This means that, for short-form ads, brands need to consider separating their visual clips from supers/audio so that they can make the maximum impact on their audience.

Evoke the Imagination

Another lesson learned by the Doctor Fork campaign was that the audience requires explicit instruction to activate their imagination and that giving this instruction will increase favorability and recall of the ad/brand.

By using instruction, brands can drive impact until they are able to prove more effective methods.

Juicy Close-Ups

Specifically, for food advertisers, Doctor Fork revealed an interesting result: the audience wants the camera to get as close as possible to what’s being offered up. Food ads should stretch from edge-to-edge with super close-up shots. This helps drive favorability and recall of the product.

Demonstrate Enjoyment

Most brands today stick to the “bite and smile” approach to demonstrate enjoyment, but Doctor Fork was able to challenge that limitation. The evidence suggests that an entire range of human/food interaction are seen as equally valid by the audience.

Thus, brands should not feel restricted to the bite-and-smile. Instead, they should be encouraged to experiment with how they present their food and how it is enjoyed.

First-Person Perspectives

Doctor Fork also brought up a final good point of analysis, which is that younger audiences had a better response to the POV, or first-person perspective, used in some of the ads than older members of the audience did. That’s good information for brands targeting the younger crowd.

What’s Next?

Doctor Fork had a lot on its plate when the team first launched the campaign. There were so many questions that they wanted to answer through these test ads, and they got impressive results.

Dr. Elder gave his input on the tests, stating that: “It is increasingly rare that academic research actually makes its way into practice, or when it does, it’s a little too late to make an impact…Similarly, many times academics focus more on the theoretical rather than practical consequences of their research, limiting its impact. This collaboration with Google created a unique environment where creative development in advertising could be informed by academic theory, tested in the real world, and immediately disseminated to companies to use. The findings from the large-scale YouTube experiments led to very fruitful brainstorming with the agencies and brand teams.”

In the meantime, Ben Jones said that the Unskippable Labs team is planning to build upon this newfound knowledge through future investigations that use the same methodology.

Ben also hopes to answer another looming advertiser question in future tests, which is focused on how various affinities and interests amongst an audience can affect their perception of advertising. Or, he put it like this: “How can we say, ‘Here is an audience that has some commonality that makes my ad more effective besides the year they were born’?”

For now, the Doctor Fork campaign has been declared a rousing success and countless faux companies are expected to follow as the Unskippable Labs team dreams up all the other ways they can use the power of creativity, and the massive reach of YouTube, to test status-quos in the world of advertising.