Cannes Lions

Captured on Google Pixel 3 | Saturday Night Live

PHD, New York / GOOGLE / 2019

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Case Film






It was Year 3 of Pixel and time for Google to firmly establish Pixel 3 as a part of culture and elevate its visibility.

Google understood that the target audience required ‘social proof’ of seeing Pixel 3 in people’s hands, people they knew and trusted. But they couldn’t just go to influencers, Pixel 3 needed to build large scale social proof, with people and media who could influence culture in a significant way, so they turned to Saturday Night Live.

To be an authentic part of this pop culture icon, we wanted to weave in the product as naturally as possible, giving Pixel 3 a storyline and also using its camera to film the sketch in 4K, the highest resolution in video today. The content had to be good enough to hold up to SNL creative standards and high quality enough to be broadcast in HD.


Saturday Night Live regularly parodies brands with pre-produced sketches that air live and are designed as fake commercials. In those pre-produced sketches, the cast doesn’t ever tip their hat on whether it’s real or not until the joke becomes too over the top. We wanted the viewer to feel the same way about our Google sketch. Was it actually part of the show or an ad?

Doubling down on the Pixel 3 for this sketch, the SNL crew replaced their professional video cameras with the Pixel 3 and filmed the entire video, inclusive of five different scenes across NYC, with the phone in 4K to match the high definition required for today’s entertainment.

This was important for Google because a smartphone camera is the top driver for consideration. Good news for us, Pixel 3 has the best on the market, so it was an easy switch.


SNL viewers are passionate about the show and have high expectations for every sketch, line, joke, and even how much airtime a cast member gets. Kyle Mooney is often called out as being underrated. He is known and loved for his style, so he became the natural choice to write and star in this sketch.

The sketch took a comedic look at Kyle’s thought process on making his “funky video,” directed by SNL’s Paul Briganti and included a cameo by castmate Aidy Bryant. Mary Ellen Matthews, known for her iconic SNL host portraits, used the Pixel 3 to take Kyle’s portraits.

To reinforce the authenticity of the content and continue to blur the line of ad/content, we mirrored the release to how SNL typically amplifies the show itself.


Google and SNL’s video premiered live on NBC in the highest rated episode of the season. Google and NBC created an isolated commercial pod to air the branded sketch and an adjacent Pixel 3 TV spot, making the connection even stronger. SNL and Google then simultaneously posted on YouTube.

For the next few days, we continued to showcase the partnership with behind-the-scenes photos and portraits. In order to keep the sketch feeling like authentic content even in paid media, we focused on placements and units that prioritized views versus clicks.

We used YouTube’s mobile in-feed ad where the video came up in a user’s feed instead of pre-roll. We whitelisted SNL, Kyle and Mary Ellen Matthew’s posts on Instagram and amplified select posts. This was all called out as captured on #pixel3 and capped off with an article in Variety.


The goal of building cultural relevance and social proof through SNL was accomplished. And according to Strategy Analytics, Pixel was the “fastest growing smartphone” in Q4 2018.

Press coverage, positive social conversation and content views proved out the greater cultural impact of the program. The branded sketch garnered 27M impressions, 11M video views, 5.4x lift in search.

Cross-channel efforts drove +14% in Consideration for the Pixel 3 target audience. For the broader general market of Adults 18-49, numbers were still strong at +6% in Awareness, +7% in Consideration.

As social proof point, 40% of Gen Pop feel the Pixel 3 is “gaining in popularity.”

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