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In peculiar Oscars ad, Google Nest backs #MeToo movement

Commentary: In a spot that will run during the 2018 Academy Awards, a dad tries to teach his son respect for women. Oddly, he can't talk to the kid face to face.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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What will happen when he flees the nest?

Nest/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

What will happen at the Oscars?

The usual answer is "not so much, other than presenters announcing the wrong winner." Though the occasional group selfie can make headlines.

At Sunday's 2018 awards ceremony in Los Angeles, some suspect there will be political statements, specifically about the #MeToo movement that's roiled Hollywood ever since sexual harassment allegations were leveled against producer Harvey Weinstein.

Google has decided to enter the controversy too. It's released an ad that will run during Sunday's broadcast for its Nest home surveillance -- I mean connected home device -- brand that suggests the problem starts when men are boys.

Here we see teens leaving for prom night. As they leave one of the boy's houses and walk toward their car, a voice calls the boy back.

"Stephen," it says. "Can I have a minute?"

There's something a little dismembered about this voice. 

It's as if it's, as they say in the movies, the voice of God. Indeed, Stephen gets a little sermon for prom night. 

"I want you to understand how special Sarah is," the voice says. 

"Yes, sir," Stephen replies.

"So treat her with respect," continues the possible God. "And don't assume being her date means anything more than that."

The possible God does want Stephen to have a great time, as it happens. That's because it's revealed that this is his dad talking, from his job at the hospital. Through his phone connected to the Nest Hello video doorbell by the front door. 

Many will naturally applaud the ad's good intentions. I struggle, however, with how some companies struggle to shove their product into serious messages.

Here, couldn't dad have had a, you know, face-to-face, man-to-man talk with Stephen in advance, rather than have this important chat in this technologically sterile manner?

"We wanted to shine a light on an important reality in modern parenting -- sometimes you can't be there physically for the important conversations, but it's no excuse not to have them," said Google/Nest's global creative director, Xanthe Wells. "In this script, the father couldn't be there for his son because of his job at the hospital."

Perhaps, though, this is Google's ideal world. Where no serious conversation can occur, unless it's through the medium of one of its devices.

First published March 3 at 9:26 a.m. PT. 
Update, 10:44 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Google.

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