Earlier this week, eyebrows were raised and tempers flared as many users of Google's Assistant unexpectedly found themselves hearing an ad for Disney's new Beauty and the Beast movie. The reference to the live-action film was casually dropped into users' daily summaries, with the Assistant explaining: "By the way, Beauty and The Beast opens in theaters today. In this version, Belle is the inventor..."
However, Google has insisted that it wasn't an ad. Unfortunately, the company's initial explanation - obviously intended to be playful, with references to the classic Disney film - made it sound even more like there was a commercial partnership at work. A spokesperson told The Verge:
This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales.
In a more sombre explanation, the company further clarified its position to 9to5Google:
This wasn’t intended to be an ad. What’s circulating online was a part of our My Day feature, where after providing helpful information about your day, we sometimes call out timely content. We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case.
As you can see, Google acknowledged that it "could have done better" - but it hasn't ruled out further experiments with similar "helpful information" in the future.