Oct 09

BlackBerry: All you need is nerve

If a commercial is to fail, normally it’s because of weak creative or unsound strategy. So I have to give BlackBerry a little credit for coming up with a third way. By their choice of a musical theme, they’ve successfully broken the gall barrier.

I refer, of course, to the use of the Beatles classic All You Need Is Love. Before I go on, let us first observe a moment of silence to lament that the Beatles catalog ever fell into enemy hands, and that such commercialization of the holy writings is even possible. Thankfully, the evil-doers can only get their mitts on the publishing rights, and not the actual Beatles tracks.

But back to the commercial. By summoning the spirit of the Beatles, BlackBerry muscles its way into a most personal and sacred place. Unless your name is McCartney, it takes a lot of nerve to go there — with a bit of arrogance and miscalculation.

My emotional hurt aside, there’s another reason why BlackBerry’s approach fails. The theme of the new campaign is: “Do what you love, love what you do.” I’m sorry, but to claim love on a Beatles-esque scale, it has to be authentic. There is precious little about the company RIM or the product BlackBerry that allows them to claim this territory. Try to be something you’re not and you’re just asking for trouble.

The spot above is the only one currently available on YouTube (forgive the unclean head and tail). I’ve seen another spot on TV that features a young couple having issues and, my personal favorite, cool people dancing. This type of work is born of the belief that if you show cool young people, you will attract cool young people — even though these are the people most likely to see right through you.

As most creatives know, you don’t become cool by telling people you’re cool. Intel got ridicule, not hipness, for phony-cool dancers in its Multiplicity campaign. Dell made us squirm with young/cool buyers dancing their way out of the dell.com warehouse. Even Apple failed with its launch spot for the very first iPod, featuring a guy dancing through his apartment (dubbed “iClod” by some). Only when the Silhouettes campaign came along did iPod get the image right. Those spots captured an emotion without pandering to the target audience. They proved that you don’t have to hold up a mirror to your customers to connect with them.

Clearly BlackBerry is jealous of the love being directed at iPhone. “Hell, let’s just tell people they should love us too” isn’t really a strategy. Without any real reason to stick with BlackBerry, they’re just showing us the people they think we want to be, and asking us sing along — with a song that probably angers more people than it pleases. Good luck with that one.

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  • I saw this and thought, this time I can hate it. There’s absolutely no connection between love and Blackberry, other than people (Obama included) loving their Blackberry. But the ‘Do’ part is far-fetched, and this is one of those jobs where there’s enough money in the budget to just spend it and not spend it well. I was not a fan of Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign either, but at least Apple ‘thinks differently’ themselves. To borrow from a genius or artist’s success, is something you can do when you have a unlimited budget and no idea.

  • Liebman

    I think you guys are missing the point. If you listen to this spot with the mono track, it all makes sense. Unfortunately, RIM is only broadcasting the inferior stereo version in the States.

  • andrew

    Not hating it so much, though far from loving or even liking it. I do like the version of the song and don’t mind when people cover the Fabs, even in commercials. More bothered by:

    1) storyline (you can’t get a record deal but you can get a live gig, isn’t that enough if you LOVE what you do?)
    2) weird, lame acting
    3) band isn’t playing the song, which feels disconnected.
    4) specious connection of “doing what you love” and “Blackberry.”
    5) Given the millions spent on it, is this 42-year-old tune even the right song for the young hipster audience?

    Probably won’t give them the bang for their millions of bucks they were hoping for. They could have saved some money and used this song instead:

  • i never liked Broadway musicals much, even less so when they’re trying to sell me something…

    maybe if they used AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ as the devices only come in black? it just seemed soooo tired, with the kids dancing everywhere on the too clean sets with the too neat hipper-than-thou outfits some wardrobe maven took weeks to put together after the weeks of casting to find the perfect set of ethnically diverse representatives…

    weak commercial checklist:
    visuals more important than message : check
    soundtrack as important as visuals : check
    choreography instead of storyboard : check
    utopian soundstage instead of realworld setting : check
    syrupy script instead of invitation to examine : check
    Blackberry checks out, no problems here…

    as an afterthought, contrast another spot using an old favorite tune to plug a non music product: Visa. Morgan Freeman’s VO with Rick James’ ‘Superfreak’ showing a lot of people dancing badly as a testament to the online music buying power of their card ending with the word GO?

    much better. they didn’t get that checklist apparently…

  • Directstein

    On the other hand, there is much that is good in the commercial … they just don’t seem to know yet how to explain what they are and why that’s what millions really want … differentiated positioning.

  • so if they don’t know how to explain themselves and set us to be curious about their product, where’s the good?

    i rather like the ‘droid.does’ teasers that Verizon is throwing around… at least that made me curious enough to find out what it might be about… they tackled everyone’s favorite phone target, the lack of multiple functionality, and listed all the things that a regular phone doesn’t do (and some that even the iPhone doesn’t do)… and all without bad choreography and Milli Vanilli lip-syncing…

  • Susan Klein

    Agree! — the voice over is puerile and nauseating and I don’t get the connection to Blackberry. The vignettes are badly cast and acted, stagey and incoherent. Feh.

  • Everything about these spots are awful. End of Story.

  • Laura B. Whitmore

    I guess what bothers me the most (and I’m coming from a songwriter’s point of view so maybe that’s why), is that they are depicting a band that is presumably creating something original and trying to get a deal. So why not use original music? There are some great “unsung” songwriters out there who could have tied in the idea brilliantly with the point of the message. And while the spot may have not worked anyway, at least it would have been more authentic!

  • ken segall


    You know, that’s a great point. A lot of advertisers (Apple included) are doing terrifically well using fresh, unknown musicians. Definitely would have gotten them some authenticity points, although the “love” and Blackberry part will never go down easy. By going the way they did, they’re just trying to buy their way into our hearts.

  • dennis berger

    About the world’s stupidest advertising campaign. What the hell does it have to do with blackberry? What the hell does it have to do with love? What the hell does it have to do with the Beatles? What the hell does it have to do with anything? How the hell did someone pay for this mess? When I see advertising like this and think about the millions they are spending on this drek it makes my blood boil.

  • Brian

    Ken Segall is spot-on. I don’t merely dislike this ad campaign. I LOATHE it. You can’t be cool by appearing to; either you are or you aren’t. I don’t like the people in the ads (the fro-haired, crack-addled female dancer drives me insane), and there is no connection between the people and the product. RIM and its ad agency simply don’t understand that being cool is natural and self-evident. This on the other hand is being a poseur, over-reaching and desperately trying to fit in.

    Conclusion to RIM: FAIL.

    Kudos to Ken Segall for being so insightful.

  • In total agreement with everything said here, and I will add this. The characters on the commercials look NOTHING like Blackberry users I’ve run in to. Uptight business owners, over programmed moms, bull-headed executives and administrators, people totally full of themselves and their importance; those are the typical Blackberry users (in my experience). In fact, I can’t remember ever meeting anyone under 30 who has ever used one.

  • Rob

    I don’t think BlackBerry is saying they’re bigger than Jesus or bettah than Jesus. They’re just saying is all… ;)

  • Josh

    I thought these ads were for MasterCard for the first month. I noticed the blackberry logo last night and was like “why in the world are MasterCard and Blackberrry advertising together??” and my wife was like “I think it was just a Blackberry ad. Horrible ad campaign. Almost as pathetic as AT&T’s attempts to strike back at Verizion’s map campaign. Come to think of it, “the island of misfit toys” is another horribly failed spot too…

  • trw

    I rarely pay any attention to advertising, but the whiny rendition of “All you need is love” kept intruding on my tranquility. After being annoyed by the song several (10+) times I finally realized it was an ad for Blackberry. Thanks Balsillie, after that barrage I will never own a Blackberry and I renounce my support for your southern Ontario hockey team unless you pull that ad by the end of 2009.

    Telus, you are next on my list. “For What It’s Worth” was a horrible choice – please stop playing it, there really is a man with a gun over there… just kidding, even if Buffalo Springfield wasn’t. Pathetic.

  • Lee

    shockingly bad advertising…. I cringe when I see them…. I am not against covering old tunes at all, BUT, they better be good…. especially if you are going to cover a ‘classic’… this particular cover isnt even in the ball park of average, its simply painful!
    I wouldnt even consider purchasing a Blackberry after watching these horribly obnoxious, meaningless, talentless adverts….
    ….people actually get paid huge money to write and produce these spots? …… INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE

  • What agency is doing this garbage anyway? The good news is that every time I see it, I’m reminded that I do love…my i-phone 3GS.

  • ken segall

    Hello, Bouchez!
    No idea who does it. I went looking once and couldn’t find any clues. Maybe they’re laying low… resting up for the award shows.