An Ad Agency Is Making Alexa Apologize Hilariously to Cities That Didn’t Get Amazon’s HQ2

McGarrah Jessee wrote custom breakup messages for each town

Does Amazon owe your city an apology? McGarrah Jessee pried open a back door to give you one. McGarrah Jessee
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As residents of New York and Washington, D.C., bemoan the prices paid to bring Amazon’s sprawling HQ2 facilities to their cities, many other cities are watching from the sidelines and wishing they’d made the cut.

To help ease the pain of rejection, Austin ad agency McGarrah Jessee wrote custom breakup messages for Amazon’s Alexa to issue to each of the  17 finalist cities that weren’t selected.

The apologies are, of course, completely unofficial, with zero approval or endorsement by Amazon. That means that to access them, you’ll need to enable McGarrah Jessee’s “Please Apologize” skill (launched earlier this year to apologize for any number of things beyond your control) and then say “Alexa, please apologize.”

Or if you want to hear them the easy way, you can just listen via the links below:

There’s a lot of tremendous copywriting in these breakup/apology notes and many an Easter egg for locals to appreciate. But the best of the lot is likely Austin, which sparked a mixture of love and fear from Team Amazon (at least in this fictionalized telling).

“The idea of trying to keep it weird all the time, year in and year out, until radical paradigm shift do us part—that’s just a lot of pressure,” the Please Apologize skill tells Austin residents. “OK, it’s also your bats. Honestly, bats just really freak us out. You say they’re regular bats, but what if they’re not? For all we know, you’re all secretly vampires. Like a sanctuary city for vampires who love tacos. Sorry, this is coming out all wrong.”

"For all we know, you’re all secretly vampires. Like a sanctuary city for vampires who love tacos. Sorry, this is coming out all wrong."
'Please Apologize' note to Austin

Sarah Weigl, creative director at McGarrah Jessee, says creating an apology through a back door with the agency’s Alexa skill was the closest Austin residents like herself are going to come to getting an apology from Amazon.

“Living in one of the finalist cities for HQ2–after all the effort local governments put into their proposals and all the months we’ve waited for an answer–it would ease the pain if Amazon said, ‘I’m sorry,’” she says. “We figured the only way to get that apology was to hack Amazon’s own technology.”

Here’s a case study about the project:

While she admits the skill lacks much in the way of practical utility, Heigl says it’s been a useful playground for McGarrah Jessee’s team to experiment with voice tech—and in this case prove that “a little politeness goes a long way.”

“It’s purely entertainment,” she says. “We may add more functionality down the line, but the original intent was to build a skill that our creatives could have fun with, and hopefully get a laugh.”

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."