Google Raises the Bar with its Latest Retrospective


25 Years in Search: The Most Searched


The world looked a lot different in the year 1998. Titanic ruled the box office, Harrison Ford was People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” and Britney Spears’ iconic debut single hit the airwaves. 1998 also saw the debut of Google, a brand that is now synonymous with online search, handling more than 3.5 billion searches per day!   

Each year, Google’s year-end campaign features a compilation of the year’s most memorable milestones. And the 2023 release is extra special, as Google use their nearly 4-minute ad to commemorate the most searched moments, people and things of the last quarter century. From the moon landing, marriage equality and the ice bucket challenge to Harry Potter, Bollywood and Barbie, there are a multitude of inspiring, joy-filled and internet-breaking moments included in the retrospective.  

Time and again, we’ve seen retrospective ads perform well with viewers thanks to their nostalgic nature. Disney’s Super Bowl LVII and holiday season ads celebrating 100 years of magic both scored 5-Stars in System1’s Test Your Ad platform, for example. Meanwhile, Nike’s celebration of Serena and Venus Williams’ journey to become tennis superstars scored high marks.   

By bringing the best moments, cultural references, characters and people together, this type of ad is effective at making people feel a lot in a relatively short timeframe. As Orlando Wood explains in his books Lemon and Look out, references to other cultural works and ads set in the past are better able to capture the broad-beam attention of the right brain, which supports long-term brand building. What’s more, this “look back” approach is also able to drive intense feelings of happiness, which is key for short-term sales potential.  

Created by Google’s Brand Studio and supported by a Year in Search hub, this ad is no exception. Google achieve a 4.8-Star Rating, which predicts ‘Strong’ long-term market share growth, and an ‘Exceptional’ Spike Rating, indicating short-term potential.  

Google not only ace the difficult task of narrowing down the clips that will elicit the most powerful emotional responses in viewers, but also offer a masterclass in how to seamlessly piece them together. Some of the most successful ads in System1’s database take viewers on an emotional journey from happiness to sadness and back to happiness. Google do the same, highlighting several historical moments that result in negative reactions like sadness and anger, such as September 11 and COVID. But they leave more than enough time to turn these emotions back around by leveraging positive visuals and an uplifting soundtrack courtesy of Tina Turner.  

While silver is traditionally the gift for a 25th anniversary, Google strikes gold with this stunning and sentimental look back at history. We can’t wait to see what the next 25 years brings.

Create 5-star ads

The more people feel, the more they buy

The most effective ads boost sales and drive long-term growth. They do it by making people feel more - building positive associations with a recognisable brand. We predict sales and growth impacts by measuring emotion, letting you make ads that entertain for commercial gain.

Try Test Your Ad