Will Google create a Ganesha tracker in 2022?, Advertising and marketing & Promoting Information, ET BrandEquity

The Google team also updates Santa's soundtrack every year.  (Image source: Google Santa Tracker)

The Google team also updates Santa’s soundtrack every year. (Image source: Google Santa Tracker)By Carol Goyal

Christmas and Santa Claus have always fascinated me as a Santa Claus. That’s why I’ve been a Santa Tracker loyalist for years. And for this I have found a very willing and helpful partner in Google.
Santa Tracker is a digital travel destination with vacation fun for the whole family. Google created a Santa’s Village that is the perfect place for families to celebrate the season. There you will find all your favorite characters together for you to enjoy, with educational and interactive activities for all ages.

Santa Claus has his own story with Google. A map software acquisition in 2004 brought a new team to Google, and that team wondered if they could put Santa’s annual flight on the map. Google launched its Santa Tracker in 2004 and has been an important project at Google ever since. While there is a small core team dedicated to Santa Claus, up to 20 Google employees volunteer each year to make it happen, and it has become a real collaborative endeavor. It’s also a way for Google developers to try things out and see what Google products can do for good, clean family fun.

For starters, the site gives you a chance to take a Santa selfie. You can spend a day in the museum. Children can be taught gratitude and kindness through the season of giving. For those who enjoy asking questions, there is Map Quiz. And interactive games galore: Ollie Under the Sea, Code Boogie, Elf Jetpack, Elf Jamband, Snowball Storm, Elf Maker, Code Lab, Wrap Bottle, Penguin Dash, Build & Bolt, Memory Match, Gift Slingshot, Gumball Till, Present Bounce, Elf Glider, Quick Draw, Santa’s Canvas, Holiday Traditions, Reindeer Runner, Snowbox, Wind Tunnel … and other exciting things that entertain 8 to 80 year olds every year and magically make them happy. But the most interesting part of the Santa Tracker is Where’s Santa Claus? And Santa Quest. I spent hours that Christmas Eve exploring Santa’s whereabouts.

In each of the Santa Village games, the visualization, the colors, the graphics, the action, the fun are simply indescribable. In some years the Santa Tracker team is adding lots of new features and fun interactions, and in other years they are simply tweaking what is already there. Like so much at Google, Santa Tracker has adapted over the years: For example, elves now ride bicycles instead of cars, and last year Santa Claus wore a mask to protect himself and others from COVID-19. Also this year, when you asked: “Where’s Santa Claus?” During your search you got a funny surprise!

One of the best additions to Santa Tracker was the integration of the Google Assistant, where people can ask for stories about Santa’s journey. The Google team also updates Santa’s soundtrack every year. The Google team were a little tired of hearing the same Santa Claus song on the repeat, so they came up with several tunes. This year they finally made a video that resembles the crackling Christmas trees but shows Santa Claus. What fun!

It was not always like this. In 2018 the Santa Tracker added several features for students and teachers. On December 4, 2018, the site fully released a number of games and lesson plans about programming basics and Christmas traditions around the world. The site also contained information about the Khan Academy and nonprofits. The 2018 Google Santa Tracker page also allowed users to use the Google Assistant to simulate a phone call to Santa Claus or listen to a Christmas story. In December of the same year, the website had 42.2 million visitors. The website claimed that Santa Claus brought 5.6 billion gifts in 2019. No small achievement.

Every Christmas Eve, the Google Santa Tracker starts simulating the pursuit of Santa Claus around midnight in the easternmost time zone (10:00 a.m. UTC). The map shows Santa Claus alternating between traveling and giving gifts in cities. Santa seems to be traveling west about one time zone an hour. Counters simulate for viewers how far Santa has traveled so far, how long it takes to reach the viewer’s city on the map, the distance from the viewer’s city and the total number of gifts delivered. Santa Claus is depicted with helpers, including the standard reindeer and elves, along with penguins and a snowman.

For each city that Santa is supposed to visit, the first paragraphs of the corresponding Wikipedia article are displayed, giving an overview of the city. The website also features photos with the city in the background and a representation of Santa Claus or his helpers in the foreground. The city’s temperature is accurately reported using data from The Weather Channel. Not every big city is visited, however; some major cities near other major cities are skipped, while smaller cities far from other populated locations are occasionally listed. Even when Santa is away, the counter that shows the total number of gifts delivered increases more slowly than when Santa is in town. It’s a fascinating experience, nothing less.

I’ve always wondered why no one in India has ever tried to imitate the Santa Tracker for our own Lord Ganesha. It can be a delightful travel destination all year round, and it can peak during the Ganesha Chaturthi period. There can be games on it (Lord Ganesha is and can be very playful), there can be music (there is already a huge repository), there can be maps, there can be a museum, there can be live streaming and so can for everyone from toddlers to grandmothers and every age group in between can have everything. We have enough talent in India to pull it off. Sure it’s not an original idea, but then who cares ?! All I can say is if it got as playful and engaging (how many modaks are eaten by the Lord in every town …) like the Santa Tracker, it would be a worthwhile investment for a start-up. Any customers?

-The author is an attorney who turned into a marketer. She is a director on the board of Everest Advertising. Views expressed are personal.

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