Back to top

In the TV campaign for the new Nexus 7 tablet, Google suggests that classic play and app-based entertainment can occupy a common space. One spot shows a father and son indulging in all the adventures that come along with camping…Getting lost in the woods, exploring the dark and sharing a story by the campfire. What makes this spot modern? A compass app, a glowing phone and an eBook serve as essential equipment. With the tagline, “The playground is open,” the brand suggests that screens are not in competition with play, or even bounded by a digital definition, but rather, this technology can serve as a tool to enhance offline play.   

Of course, Google’s backyard camping scenario is of the most romantic kind…Even when rain threatens to dampen their day, the daring duo endure - simply retreating to their tent to watch a movie. Dad doesn’t use his devices to check email or to text in this idyllic campground. Here, technology is all about adding to father/son engagement. Even the games they play are of the “acceptable” sort – chess!

But underlying this aspirational scene is a sharp insight about a problem facing the parents of this cohort of digital natives which Google wisely seeks to resolve…Play is more political than ever for today’s parents (a subject we addressed in a blog from November of last year). Experts emphasize the importance of offline play. They bemoan the loss of free time in which kids can self-direct their play, and they suggest that media and digital technology threaten the ability to imagine. At the same time, schools are seeking to incorporate technology into their classrooms, both to help them acquire and employ up to date content in effective and efficient ways, but also to ensure that they are preparing their students with the digital literacy they need to operate in the “real” world. Our data shows that parents believe that technology is an important (and inevitable) aspect of their children’s lives, even as some feel conflicted over the role it plays.

Google makes their message stand out in the increasingly cluttered tablet marketplace by joining to seemingly contradictory ideas…Outdoor play, and sustained imaginative play (as shown in another spot in the campaign) aren’t the enemies of technology, they’re playmates on the same playground. Digital devices don’t divide families, they bring them together. And apps and tablets haven’t made exploring obsolete, but rather, they’ve made it more vibrant and energizing. Whether parents will see themselves in this vision of arcadia remains to be seen, but we think Google’s strategy smartly suggests a middle road through the tricky terrain of play today.