07
Dec 09

Droid plays the testosterone card

[Sorry, the commercial referenced here has disappeared from YouTube]

Enough of the teasers. The first real ad in the Droid assault is now among us. And assault turns out to be a pretty good descriptor — because everything about this spot is amped to extremes, from strategy and script to images and editing.

What this effort probably needed most, however, was some adult supervision.

Every agency wants to start with the most unexpected, out-there ideas. Nothing’s taboo. The theory is that you can always pull creative back, but you can’t amplify something that isn’t there. But then you start developing. And when you’re about to enter the world’s hottest category, battling the much-loved iPhone, risking market share and millions of dollars, you’d think that some responsible person might have politely raised a hand and said: “are you nuts?”

It’s as if the agency, followed by Verizon, Google and Motorola, developed this ad in an alternate reality —  where design doesn’t matter, women want to be men and writers are paid by the adjective. What we get is a whole fleet of runaway trains.

It’s a male-only strategy in a category that’s 50% female. It’s a spot that attacks iPhone for the very reason it’s succeeded — great design. It’s a script that is so desperately cool, it’s juvenile. Worst of all, it’s a launch that presents a smartphone without any smart — offering no benefit other than speed. In that sense, it’s actually less of an ad than the teaser was.

I’m all for chipping away at iPhone’s armor. But allowing your inner pubescent to attack iPhone as “a tiara-wearing, digitally clueless beauty queen” or “a precious porcelain figurine of a phone” reveals a disturbing cluelessness.

It’s hard to imagine any woman outside of the WWE who’d appreciate this ultra-male tone. At the DroidDoes.com website, the slide continues: we get mechanical design presented by a flesh-and-blood android so smarmy, you want to slap him. (Extra points for integration!)

The good news for Droid is, misguided marketing isn’t always fatal. Maybe the device will sell well by its own merits and the superiority of the Verizon network. Who knows, maybe Droid will ultimately cut through iPhone’s lead “like a circular saw through a ripe banana.”

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  • Perhaps they missed the survey I saw over the weekend where 97% of people who are unsatisfied with AT&T’s service will remain with AT&T because they love their iPhones.

    What a unique schism: one group with the best phone and lousy service. The other with the best service and lousy phones.

    This is the technowar of the year? Apple/AT&T vs. Verizon/Motorola/Google.

    So far, as usual, we consumers are the losers.

  • Harry Day

    It seems that they are trotting out the old and unsuccessful idea that electronics are made for engineers. Can you imagine a car commercial that said “We are better because our car is ugly and to get it to work you’ll need to spend every weekend tinkering with it?”

    After all these year they (both advertisers and engineers) have not realized that what sells is simplicity that works. That is the only feature that matters and what differentiates Apple from Dell/Hp/Microsoft.

  • John

    As far as I knew, no one was criticizing the iPhone for speed. Browsing the web is infinitely faster on the iPhone, certainly when compared to its original competition. This is a strange angle to take. And I say this as a testosterone-filled man who loves speed as much as the next guy.

  • not sure if the amped spots will or will not generate with any specific target… women might get pretty amped about technology (at least a significant portion of them do) …

    and not for nothing but Apples sort of ‘metrosexual’ mellow approach hasn’t hurt their sales amongst heavy hitter business folk, aggressive social types, etc…

    at the end of the day, it might be about the phone after all and i fear that bob might be right: the clear losers are us…

  • Shehan

    I am really enjoying the fact that all the verizon lovers out there hate the fact that the iPhone is on AT&T. Its just entertaining to watch really..

    At the end of the day, this ad just proves that APPLE’s Flagship device is exactly what it is the FLAGSHIP.. and everyone wants to be it. They really don’t get it.. still!

  • Stephen Sonnenfeld

    I think the problem here is one of execution, not strategy. What’s a smartphone to do entering a category, dominated at least on an attention level, by one of the most iconic products in recent history, stamped with the imprimatur of perhaps the greatest brand in the history of branding? Out iPhone the iPhone on a different carrier platform? That’s a fools’ errand.

    The only sensible approach to effectively combat the iPhone is to position yourself as the anti-iPhone, and thank the sweet Lord Jesus that you have marketing pockets as deep as Verizon. Aspire to be everything the iPhone isn’t and never would want to be. Be the bad-ass muscle car to iPhone’s elegance and refinement. Strut your Terminator-like personality and robotic industrialism. I think there’s plenty of appetite out there for a smartphone with this kind of personality. After all, the damn thing is called “droid,” so it would be a little weird to support it with cute advertising.

    That said, this is no excuse for the wretchedness of this spot. Agency and client should retreat back to their little droid lab and find a new way to bring to life what is a viable product positioning strategy.

  • ken segall

    @Stephen:
    Though it pains me deeply to ever have to agree with you, you do have a valid point. I often express empathy for those who have to do battle with iconic brands. It’s very easy to criticize, but a thousand times harder to come up with a better idea. The name Droid definitely gives them someplace to go, and there are infinite ways to create a personality around it. Too bad they chose the one they did…

  • ChuckO

    I don’t know how good an idea it is to go the he-man, muscle car route. I’ll leave that to you professional mad men but it definitely seems bad that all there ads star the iPhone as much as the Hemi-Droid (how’s that for iconic muscle car iconography). I’ll give that nickname to Verizon for free if they want it or better yet Apple!

  • There are probably a dozen reasons why this is good marketing, but my gut right now isn’t liking it one bit.

    For starters, why pick apart the concept of a phone that has proven to be massively successful? The more Droid tries to be unlike the iPhone, the less I like it. (And I am trying to like it—as a Verizon lifer, I’m considering it as my next phone.) Frankly I think they should be letting themselves be seen as what they probably are—very much like iPhone, but in some ways superior. An improvement on the concept rather than an outright rejection of it.

    What bothers me more, though, is that the ad’s not very iconic to this supposedly heroic Droid phone. It’s messy, and I don’t want a messy phone. You’re talking power and speed and you’re showing me Barbie dolls and banana moosh. I barely get to see your damn phone at all. The effect is that of a loudmouthed, arrogant salesman who’s hiding the product he’s trying to sell behind his back. The phone comes off as a cheap high, an energy drink, an audience giveaway at a wrestling match.

    Kudos, Droid, for zagging while Apple’s zigging. But I don’t think this was the way to do it.

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  • ChuckO

    The closest thing to this strategy to me is the Apple’s Mac\PC ads but the tone is completely different. Mac AND PC are both like old friends where PC is the old friend I don’t trust for certain things anymore but those are enjoyable ads. This Verizon ad is not enjoyable and Verizon is essentially misrepresenting the product.

    I hate to harp on this but this phone is going to let people down when they find out the limitations that have been inherited from the Microsoft platform which is where this hardware comes from. The inability to have an unlimited number of apps and NO comparable games is going to blow up on them. I don’t think people are going to be that psyched to look at gMail on that beautiful screen and not Tap Tap whatever that game is called.

    So for me this is a short term strategy that will I suspect end up leading to disappointment for people with Verizon potentially on the level of iPhone owners with AT&T although in reverse (weird phone limitations on good network instead of great phone on bad network).