CES 2019: How Google Took Attendees for a Ride

CES 2019: How Google Took Attendees for a Ride


A camera affixed to the railing of The Ride snapped participant photos.

Google once again made its presence known at CES, Jan. 8-11, with a two-story Google Playground installation outside the Las Vegas Convention Center in Central Plaza that offered a big and bold LED façade, spacious plaza and a closed-off upper level that housed what was the talk of the show: The Ride.

In fact, if you looked up at the structure at the precise moment, you’d catch a set of doors swing open and moving theme-park cars with seated attendees loop around a deck outside the building before disappearing through another set of doors. As we stood outside the LVCC looking on, we noticed all the phones raised to capture the moment. One person described it as “Disneyland over there.” A few seconds later, the Las Vegas Monorail, wrapped in “Hey Google” branding, sailed along the raised platform behind Google’s structure. Talk about visibility.

On the ground level of the building, reworked from CES last year but equal in scale, friendly Google Guides greeted attendees and offered the lay of the land. Inside, a main travel artery snaked through the building to the back entrance with open-air interactive product spaces for demos manned by specialists on either side. Off of the main artery, more demo spaces inspired by use-case scenarios and product partners. There was a bustling café offering a menu of pick-me-ups and lounge seating, as well.

Naturally, things got interesting in the line for The Ride. Google Guides handed out snacks to keep us happy while we waited. Attendees also caught a first look at 3D characters that would be featured on the ride—while in the queue line, a grandmother character knitting in a rocking chair beside her cat chatted with attendees in real time (via a staffer on the other side of a hidden camera, we learned).

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We reached a dark staging area where brand ambassadors closed the doors, LED lights sparkled like stars on the ceiling, and a giant character snored in a bed in front of us. This experience would help kick off the story of a parent managing a hectic day of running errands with the kids while planning for their grandmother’s 90th birthday… and how Google Assistant would help all along the way.

After that opening vignette, we headed upstairs, passing bright and colorful household vignettes that tied into use-cases for Google Assistant and the story Google would tell on The Ride: “A story of love, loss and personalized morning routines.” We lined up in numbered rows like a theme park ride and boarded two-seater cars. The gentlemen next to us clutched a Nest camera he won from Google’s giant gumball machine giveaway activation (more on that in a minute).

The ride lurched forward and we entered a tunnel filled with lights, sound, music, narration and a/v effects as we rode past the moving vignettes. On one leg of the journey was that outdoor loop we saw earlier from across the street, complete with smoke effects. A camera affixed to the railing snapped each of our photos. The Ride ended triumphantly with the “birthday cake” being delivered for the party.




When we disembarked, kiosks assigned to each car allowed us to easily find our photo snapped during that outdoor hero moment and email it to ourselves on the spot with a swipe of the badge. A stop at a French bakery near the exit for fresh macaroons provided a pretty sweet ending.

The experience can be best described as reminiscent of Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride. We welcomed the escape and, quite frankly, couldn’t stop smiling.

“We designed the Google Assistant to be helpful. To bring together the best of Google and its partners to help you at home, in the car, or on the go, so you can focus on the things that matter most,” says Marcelo Alba, creative strategist-experiences and events, Google. “When thinking about how to create an immersive and fun experience for attendees at CES, what better way to demonstrate the helpfulness of the Google Assistant than to take visitors on an actual ride that shows them the many ways the Google Assistant helps them through their ride of life?”



Like last year, Google’s Las Vegas takeover included product integrations in dozens of exhibits across the show floor. Google also brought back its larger-than-life gumball machines from last year, which dispensed giant gift orbs in Google colors containing prizes to win cool stuff like Google Home Minis and valuable gift cards from partners.

“The category of digital assistants is still really new, so it’s important that we have a strong presence at events, like CES, to continue educating consumers on how the Google Assistant can be helpful throughout their day,” Alba says. “It’s also a great opportunity to work closely with our partner ecosystem to preview and showcase all the amazing devices to make the home, cars and phones smarter.” Agencies: Sparks, Philadelphia; Deep Local, Pittsburgh; Brand New School, New York City; Nexus, Los Angeles/London.


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Hitch a ride through The Google Assistant Playground at #CES2019! In under a minute, catch a view of how help is always a tap, talk or squeeze away with the Assistant and @madebygoogle. #HeyGoogle

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Rachel Boucher
Posted by Rachel Boucher

Rachel joined Event Marketer in 2012 and today serves as the brand's head of content. Her travels covering the experiential marketing indust ry have ranged from CES in Las Vegas to Spring Break in Panama City Beach, Florida (hey, it's never too late)—and everywhere in between.
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