This week’s standout ad for us comes from Google. It is a three-minute film that tells the incredible story of Saroo Brierley, who was separated from his family in India at the age of five, but found them again as an adult, with the help of Google Maps.
After losing his brother in a train station in India, the five year-old Brierley found himself on a train to Calcutta travelling far from his family. Lost, he was adopted by a family in Australia, and began a new life. Fast-forward 26 years, and Brierley found himself looking on Google Maps at India to try and match his memories of his childhood home with photos on the site. Miraculously, he found his home town and travelled there, to be reunited with his mother.
A story such as this is gold for Google, who have retold it in a sweet, if slightly sentimental, film (shown above). One of Google’s prime intentions with its marketing is to show the human and emotional qualities that lie behind the tech applications they produce, and this story does that in spades.
The film is of course only a version of Brierley’s story, however, and in Google’s telling all the sad or distressing aspects of the tale have been removed, including the fact, according to Wikipedia, that while Brierley was lost, his brother Guddo was later found dead near the station, having been hit by a train. Brierley’s telling of how he found his home town and family in the film is also somewhat truncated compared to the Wikipedia version (which also mentions Brierley using a Facebook group to help find his mother, a point that definitely has no place here).
The neatness of Google’s rendition has led to a few cries of ‘fake’ on YouTube, and I can’t help but wonder if a more nuanced telling of the story, with its edges left intact, would not have been even more affecting. Google Maps is undeniably at the centre of Brierley’s ability to locate his family, and a film version of the story that subtly made this point but also touched on some of the emotional difficulties he must have gone through, both in losing and then re-finding his family, could potentially have avoided any feelings of fraudulence.
Despite this, it remains a remarkable tale, and a great example of how technology and the internet can truly change lives. And it is certainly a hell of a lot more heartwarming than the recent bad news stories regarding privacy that Google Maps has had to field.