Two Googlebots walk into a bar…

Aug. 07, 2012 | by Danny Chadburn

Pint beerYou know the kind of place, very close to the station in the town centre with big windows full of adverts for meal offers and happy hour discounts. It’s got a pub-like name – The Toad and Castle, or The Westchester – but everybody who goes there uses the name of the chain that runs it.

They head to the shiny LED-lit surface of the bar and are faced with a familiar sight – 4 or 5 standard brand lagers 4-5% in strength, each indistinguishable from the last with the ale option limited to a sickly smooth slop from a rarely broached barrel. The fridges are neatly stocked, but hold no bottles that would intrigue you enough to enquire as to their contents.

Which is lucky, as rather than acknowledging the presence of paying customers, the bar staff seem to be holding a private chat. This conversation doesn’t cease even when the Googlebots manage to distract someone for long enough to get in their order; money changes hands without eye-contact, let alone a thank you.

With transaction complete and pints in hand they head to a high table near the window, after declining the option of paying £1.20 per game of pool. There’s a wall of books next to them, or what seems like a wall of books until they reach for one and have their Great Expectations replaced with an empty cardboard sleeve. The trinkets on the shelves also seem somewhat out of place, and would all surely have “Made in Taiwan” on their base, although it’s impossible to check as they’re securely glued in place.

They discuss the latest algorithm changes and make a sportsman’s bet about which animal the next major ranking release will be named after. It’s actually quite hard to hear themselves think with the grindingly catchy pop tunes creeping out from background into the fore.

They grab one of the laminated menus in the hope of fulfilling their appetites – crawling millions of websites a day is hungry work. A scan of the vast menu suggests that everything will have been pre-prepared in a warehouse in the Midlands then shipped to freezer compartments in pub kitchens across the country. It’s simply not profitable to produce “2 burgers for £8″ by any other means. To the left of the bar is a counter brimming with cutlery and condiments to which you can help yourself – these prove very popular as people attempt to mask the taste of their meal.

Disillusioned with their experience, they quickly sink their drinks, leaving quietly past the sign advertising the weekly pub quiz, sponsored by a Sports TV channel that distributes the same set of questions en masse to countless other establishments. With their thirst not quite quenched, the stumble upon another pub down a side alley heading towards the riverbank. The outside is subtly confident in its appearance, having only had minor refurbishments since it was built sometime a few centuries ago.

Stepping inside, the experience is immediately more welcoming. Behind the bar is a man with sideburns that only a diehard CAMRA member could sport, and his Cheshire cat grin and bellowing “Hello!” make the Googlebots feel like they’ve found somewhere they can spend a few hours – potentially more if they want to work their way through the enticing range of ales on offer.

Each comes with an enthusiastic explanation from the knowledgeable landlord, and a small taster glass is offered to help them decide on which tickles their tastebuds. Settling on one from a local micro-brewery, they pull up two stools to the bar next to a man furiously scribbling in a well-worn notebook. They learn he’s putting the questions together for tonight’s quiz – he has been running it for years in return for his glass to be kept full over the course of the evening; attracting teams from all across the region, questions are pitched at just the right level to make them challenging, but not totally ungettable.

With stomachs rumbling, they request a menu prompting the barkeeper to point towards the sizable blackboard on the opposite wall, surrounded by collectables from all over the world that passing punters have donated to a good home. There’s a decent variety of meal options on offer, with a few choices crossed off due to their popularity during the lunchtime rush – it’s all cooked fresh with a focus on seasonal ingredients sourced locally and the salad garnishes are plucked from the allotment in the pub garden.

After killing some time with the board games provided at the side of the bar, two rustic burgers in freshly baked buns arrive in front of them, accompanied by thick cut chips (with the skin left on) and ramekins of homemade relish to complete the dish. Wolfed down in a matter of minutes, it’s time to sample another of the beers that sit before them, and for a message to be put on Facebook inviting their friends to join the party.

Things start to get a little hazy from here, with the pumps pouring, people imbibing, and the stories from the band of irregular regulars getting competitively more outrageous. After the quiz questions cease (the Googlebots team came in a respectable 7th out of 12) and a few free games of darts have finished, the ivories begin to tinkle and rousing renditions of popular hits spanning the decades ring out into the wee hours.

Weaving their way back to HQ, the Googlebots agree wholeheartedly; a top evening.

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    Comments (12)

    • Saleem Khawaja

      Danny, your piece speaks to the heart of the matter. If you match your analogy to great print and TV advertising like Levi's memorable 501 ad featuring Nick Kamen, the imagination, the amount of work, research and budget that went into that are obvious. A seminal and memorable piece of work that has stood the test of time.
      Compare that to what a lot of websites are dishing out as ads to tempt visitors to click on them, the lack of thought and imagination is painfully obvious, and you know the budgets were laughable.
      Just as we all know that quality editorial tempts readers back to read again, engaging and attractive ads will do the same. Unless website owners realise their digital marketing is not just an extension of their print estate, but the future for their advertising revenue generation as a whole, we will all struggle with creating quality online campaigns.Aug 31, 2012 05:39 pm

    • Rory Hodgson

      Ha ha! Spot on.

      Also leaves me hungry for a pint of Doom Bar...Aug 22, 2012 11:27 am

    • Tamsin

      I really enjoyed this Danny. In return I offer you this: - I think it might speak to you.Aug 9, 2012 02:03 pm

    • Paul

      If all you want is a quick pint of Blue Moon Wheat Beer, amongst the company of rowdy football fans before you get your train back to London, then it's perfect because it is lively, cheap and convenient. It's all about content fit for purpose. I visit my local The Rifleman for decent beer and a night out, I expect and want a different experience at the Pub inside Picadilly Station.Aug 8, 2012 07:04 am

    • Dan

      Wetherspoons make a lot of money though...Aug 7, 2012 03:19 pm

    • Malcolm

      This is fantastic Danny - really great imagery, I can almost taste the real ale :oPAug 7, 2012 02:26 pm

    • Richard

      I love a good whimsical analogy and this has really hit the spot. A bit thirsty now though...Aug 7, 2012 01:33 pm

    • ShellyB

      Great article, you can just picture the scenes.
      I know exactly which one I would while away the hours at (and it wouldn't be the plastic version!)Aug 7, 2012 01:27 pm

    • Joshua

      I assumed it was mass-market, 'supposedly gives you what you want' but you don't want to stay there content bars, compared to organic and brilliant older traditional pubs that actually have what you want.Aug 7, 2012 01:18 pm

    • Danny Chadburn

      Glad you liked it! There was a "Moral of the story..." but it was removed in favour of allowing people to come to their own conclusions. :-)Aug 7, 2012 01:15 pm

    • Joshua

      Absolutely love this.Aug 7, 2012 01:07 pm

    • jelly

      Danny, this is a wonderfully entertaining piece of writing. I was expecting it to evolve into a meaningful tale about something search/content related, but drew my own metaphors anyway (e.g. what kind of content Googlebots prefer - mass-produced and tacky, or more bespoke and written for people), which I guess is what you were aiming for.Aug 7, 2012 01:06 pm

    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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