Google ‘Fortunetelling’ site is a bait-and-switch to draw attention to a humanitarian crisis

Google supposedly has all the answers, so it wasn’t surprising that when a new Google Fortunetelling site appeared on the web today, people couldn’t wait to see their futures revealed. What they got was something completely different. is a “fake Google-site” that promises to predict your future if only you will type a question into the search bar. The site’s interface looks almost identical to the real search engine, complete with its new logo.

But when users begin to type, the site takes over, autofilling the question “Where can I find a safe place?” and suggesting several others queries:

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 12.26.52 PM

The search results: “OF COURSE WE CAN’T PREDICT YOUR FUTURE! But 60 million refugees ask themselves every day if they have a future at all. So we used a fake Google-site to get your attention because apparently you were interested in your own future. Please take a moment to think of their future.” A crystal ball on the right of the page tallies each additional refugee forced to flee their home during your time onsite.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 12.47.59 PM

Netherlands-based creative communications agency BrainMedia confirmed they are behind the site, which links to the donations page of UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency.

“The campaign is very successful worldwide right now; it’s amazing. We are very happy that people care about this problem and are sharing it and creating awareness around the world,” said Jort Boot, owner of BrainMedia.

Google is, of course, a well-known prankster, especially on April Fool’s Day, so many might have assumed this was the work of the Silicon Valley giant.

Google has its own efforts to help with the crisis already donating over $1 million to organizations providing humanitarian relief. The company also plans to match donations up to $5.5 million made on its refugee relief page for a total of $11 million. It is currently only $72,000 from its goal. Those donations will go to Network for Good and be further distributed to Doctors Without Borders, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and UNHCR.

The Fortunetelling site encourages sharing on social, which many were doing by early afternoon. “Google Fortune Telling” was mentioned in 731 tweets in the past 24 hours, according to data from Topsy. Twitter users didn’t seem to be upset about the bait-and-switch at all.


“We are flattered and appreciative of the encouragement of financial support,” said Brian Reich, who runs The Hive, a special project of USA for UNHCR. “This is a major global crisis and the more people who donate and become involved, the better things can become.”

More in Media

Daily Mail plans to debut a dozen YouTube shows in 2024 in long-form video push

Daily Mail is making a big push into long-form video with plans to debut a dozen shows on YouTube by the end of this year.

Publishers’ top tips for pitching advertisers at Cannes

The art of making sales at Cannes may not be the same strategy taught in business school.

AI Briefing: What would Steve Jobs say about Apple’s ambitions for AI?

Last week’s WWDC made plenty of headlines with various AI updates across Apple’s operating system and apps.