Google’s most iconic Pixel ad aired 4 years ago (and the Childish Gambino song still isn’t out)

Google’s most iconic Pixel ad aired 4 years ago (and the Childish Gambino song still isn’t out)

With the Grammys being this weekend, it’s the perfect opportunity to remind you that Google’s best, most iconic Pixel ad featuring Childish Gambino aired during the 2019 edition of the awards show.

To set the stage, we’re firmly in the Pixel 3 and 3 XL era with the 3a series not coming for three more months. Two days before the Pixel ad, Google released a Playmoji version of Childish Gambino for the Playground AR experience in the Camera app.

We worked closely with Childish Gambino and his music video choreographer, Sherrie Silver, to make sure the Playmoji’s dance moves rival those of Childish Gambino himself. By using ARCore’s motion tracking, light estimation, and ability to understand the real world, his Playmoji looks and feels lifelike, whether he’s in front of you or in a selfie next to you. He even reacts to your facial expressions in real time thanks to machine learning—try smiling or frowning in selfie mode and see how he responds.

Available for the Pixel, Pixel 2, and Pixel 3 at the time, the Childish Gambino Playmoji pack featured unique dance moves mapped to “Redbone,” “Summertime Magic,” and “This is America.”

childish gambino in google pixel playground

The minute-long ad on February 10, 2019 features Childish Gambino dancing with a virtual counterpart that looks like the Playmoji version but is much higher fidelity. It’s a dance-off set to “Human Sacrifice,” a song that’s been played live at concerts, but never got an official release – to the disappointment of many. (Glover did tease that he’s working on music again last month.)

The cleanest version comes from the Pixel ad and this studio recording, while there are quite a few live recordings. The full song is over six minutes long.

In hindsight, it’s interesting how big Playmoji was to early Pixel advertising. It was the “fun” feature that came to an end with the Pixel 4 as the 4a in mid-2020 dropped support. But before that, there were Playmoji sticker packs for the Avengers, Detective Pikachu, Stranger Things, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

It’s certainly fun to take pictures and videos with these characters, but it didn’t really contribute to the sense that Google was ahead in AR (that was Lens and Live View). Playmoji was certainly not the reason you bought a phone, with recent Pixel advertising getting that and very heavily focusing on the camera and other helpful features.

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