Google leveraged Safer Internet Day (Feb. 11) to take its Be Internet Awesome platform live, arming families with the fundamentals of online citizenship and safety via an art gallery-style experience in New York City (MKG handled). Considered a driver’s course for internet safety, the event operated around Be Internet Awesome’s five pillars: Smart, Alert, Strong, Kind and Brave. To dive deeper into the strategy behind the interactive experience, we caught up with Jessica Covarrubias, education program lead at Google.
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Event Marketer: What is Be Internet Awesome all about?
Jessica Covarrubias: The spirit of Be Internet Awesome is a positive and empowering program. The program doesn’t aim to fearmonger at all. We actually want to encourage families and kids to take agency in their role on the internet. As they learn about all of these different topics and all of the ways they can and cannot—or should and should not—navigate the internet, it ends up being this beautiful composition of tips.
EM: How is the Google brand integrated into the Be Internet Awesome platform?
JC: We’re not teaching users how to use Google products at all, which is part of the magic of the program. We’re teaching them about the internet. Google plays a role in the internet, but we certainly aren’t the only ones in the space.
EM: What was the chief marketing goal behind the Safer Internet Day experience?
JC: For Safer Internet Day, we partnered with the National PTA, the YMCA and also the Grow with Google [Learning Center]. So we wanted to highlight some of the training that we developed in the form of a workshop that the National PTA and the YMCA were teaching [at the learning center, and] across the country that same day.
The second piece of it is, while having those workshops going on for the whole week, we wanted to create an activation that was [also] meant for someone to grow, learn and take in all of this information, and it was built for the people that were either gearing up to attend a workshop or exiting a workshop, or people that just wanted to come in and browse.
EM: How did you land on an art gallery theme for the event?
JC: The art gallery scene, especially in New York, is very popular, and one of the questions we asked ourselves was: How can we create a space where we bring these tricky, complex, but also a bit intimidating, topics to life in a fun and interactive way through the Be Internet Awesome program? So we created one large online safety gallery, and then within that gallery were spaces that brought to life each of those five pillars. At Google, we’d never done an art gallery and we hadn’t done a pop-up experience like that within the Grow with Google Learning Center. So it was a lot of firsts for the company because of how we brought to life these topics in such an out-of-the-box way.
EM: Did attendees have any surprising reactions?
JC: I think the beauty in the event was seeing how adults were getting stumped. They’d say, “Uhhhhh… I think it’s OK to share?” So the point of this, and really the point of Be Internet Awesome, is to show how everything is not black and white on the internet. We wanted to at least give adults a taste of, “Hey, this isn’t easy for us—now, can you imagine what it’s like for a child?” It’s a lot more complex.
EM: What was a highlight for you?
JC: It was great seeing everyday people from New York trickle in and talk about how they learned something on these types of topics. I think we expect people to know what to do, but what we’re seeing more and more is people are realizing they don’t know every answer to online safety—and that’s OK. But we should at least be aware of some of the spots that can be a little murky… Especially with family, with children, so that we don’t fearmonger them and instead encourage them to talk about the things they’re coming across on the internet. It was interactive and educational and I think oftentimes to get that balance right can be difficult, because it can either be too much of an information download or not enough information.