The Internship: A Fun Movie, But Also A Beautiful Google Commercial

The Internship MovieThe Internship is great, a  funny film by director Shawn Levy (screenplay by Vince Vaughn and Jared Stern) well-worth seeing by anyone who likes underdog stories. But one thing that wasn’t an underdog was Google itself. It won throughout the movie.

I got to view the film during a press screening on Thursday. It’s easy to imagine that many will come away from the movie thinking that Google is the greatest place to work, produces fantastic products and is focused on making the world better. And if you didn’t get that last point, without giving too much away, it’ll be stated, at the end.

For those not up on the plot, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play two out-of-work sales reps who manage to land, against all odds, internships at Google. If they can succeed, full-time employment awaits. But to succeed, these non-programmers — tossed in with a team of misfit engineers — have to beat other teams, including one led by a stereotypical bad guy.

Some filming actually happened at the Google campus, and that shows. But some did not, and those who’ve been there can easily spot the differences. For instance, don’t go looking for that giant slide in the Google lobby!

Being Googley On The Big Screen

It was the portrayal of Google that I found most fascinating, that The Internship is like an anti-The Social Network, a film that paints Google in almost the best light possible. Even the most annoying Google employee will be “Googley” in the end — having that special essence that makes someone part of Google, of believing the “Don’t Be Evil” mantra, being smart and innovative.

Being Googley is real, by the way. It is a certain something that many Google employees do have, something that helps get them hired or helps shape them into that mindset, if they stay long enough at Google. While Google strives to maintain that spirit, I’d say as someone who’s watched the company since it began, the sense of being “Googley” is less strong than in the past. My take. Others may disagree, obviously.

Also real is the sense, the honest sense, that Google does want to make the world a better place, that it’s just not about making profits. That’s not to say that Google isn’t also a business with great profit-based ambitions, and one that sometimes self-admittedly makes terrible mistakes.

But the movie focuses on the positive, as you’d expect from a comedy. I can’t imagine anyone at Google watching the film and feeling nothing but happy about how the company is portrayed. One extended scene in a stripclub might make some squirm, but that’s off-campus so technically not Google’s problem.

A Wonderful Place To Play, Er, Work

So Googlers come across as wonderful. So does their workplace. Everyone seems to be having fun, the free food is flowing, and you take naps whenever you want.

In some ways, it mirrors well what anyone who’s had a chance to visit a Google campus might discover, and employees do rate it a great place to work.

My two kids once had a chance to visit the Mountain View headquarters in 2008. They came away thinking they wanted careers there where they just played with Lego and ate ice cream. Heck, after watching the movie, even a part of me wanted to work at Google, just because it looked so fun!

The reality is that while all the great things shown are pretty similar to what I’ve seen offered, I know that it’s not just all play. People are actually doing real work there, work that you never really see happen in the movie itself. Work that’s happening behind the scenes to produce all those great Google products that get portrayed in the film.

Google Product Placement Throughout

Google product placement begins, perhaps appropriately, with Vaughn using Google’s original product — Google Search — to discover the internship opportunity.

The interview is done through a Google Hangout. Internship training sequences make mention of Google products, often with descriptions that subtly, oh so subtly, sell them. And yes, that’s a Galaxy Nexus Android phone that keeps showing up, as well as a Nexus 7 tablet.

Owen & Vince

Google cofounder Sergey Brin also turns up, twice, to make cameos.

The all-Google world only breaks when there’s a mention of Facebook about midway through. It comes up twice that I noted, along with several mentions of Instagram, all of which are positive. That’s almost classic Google itself, praise competition so it doesn’t appear you’re closed to diversity in the tech space. Similarly, Chromebooks are often seen alongside MacBooks.

What you never see or hear mentioned is Microsoft, not that I noted. No Windows laptops. While Google and Facebook have shaky relations sometimes, Microsoft has always been Google’s great Satan. Microsoft does, however, get an indirect mention with a Bill Gates shout-out.

It’s easy to dismiss any of this as not being calculated by Google since it didn’t write the movie. But it provided lots of guidance. It’s Google that would have suggested what types of laptops should be showing (and to be fair, Windows computers aren’t that common there). It’s Google that would have suggested which of its products that made sense to mention, portray and how to describe them.

Of course, those products clearly aren’t perfect given the interns all have to take part manning the “Google Helpline” for one of their competitions. Why have a helpline unless products have issues? Of course, the helpline turns out to be more about people who have issues using Google’s products than the product themselves not working well.

The Google Helpline is fiction, of course. No one is going to get on the phone from Google and talk you through your Gmail problem, sorry. I wonder if this, perhaps, might be the only real damaging part of the movie for Google. What happens when people do try to find a helpline number and get disappointed. The movies not even out, and some already do try, as you can tell from the suggest searches:

Google Helpline

Also fiction is the idea that new AdWords accounts for small businesses get processed through written purchase orders. I won’t go into more, but you’ll know if there are any paid search people in the audience watching The Internship if you hear some loud guffaws around a certain scene.

Great Film For Google & Moviegoers

As I said, The Internship is a great movie. Years and years ago, I’d get my friends together for “Comedy Fest,” where we’d watch things like Stripes or Back To School or The Blues Brothers. The Internship would easily make the cut for as a must-show, even if I didn’t know Google so well and was able to appreciate the film on a much deeper level.

But this is also a great movie for Google, one that perhaps will help rebrand the company as that fun, wacky place that it was so portrayed as in its early days, before it was a giant with accusations about anti-trust moves and privacy issues tossed its way. The general public still seems to largely view Google as positive despite such things, and I’d say this movie can only help with that.

For more about the making of the film and how Google was involved, absolutely be sure to read the two pieces below:

Be sure to stay for the credits at the end, which make it seem like Google products are used to create the credits. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are both shown as having Google+ accounts. That’s a fiction, too. Neither are on Google+ despite all their time at Google, not any type of verified accounts that I can locate. But the The Internship is on Google+, at least.

It’s also on YouTube, with its trailer. Enjoy the preview. The  PG-13 comedy opens June 7, 2013  in the US. Also starring in the movie are actors Dylan O’Brien, John Goodman, Josh Gad and Rose Byrne.

YouTube Preview Image

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Features & Analysis | Google: Marketing | Google: The Internship Movie | Top News


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Peggy McKenna

    Can’t wait to see it (I’m a BIG Google fan). Probably as close as I will ever come to working at Google, but I can dream.

  • Michal Smetana

    Well, why would it be wrong if it seemed a bit like a Google commercial? We can see product placement all around us, so what’s wrong with this?

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