Last night, for the first time ever, BlackBerry – the company formerly known as RIM – bought air time during a Super Bowl. The stakes for BlackBerry were particularly high: The Canadian tech giant recently launched a new operating system, BlackBerry 10, and a shiny new smartphone, the Z10, both of which it hopes will help it better compete with market-dominating rivals such as Samsung and Apple.
Did it work? Well, it's a little early to say, but early reactions to the advert seem to be mostly ones of befuddlement. The whole thing is certainly unconventional. The spot opens on a man walking out of a storefront onto a city street. Shortly thereafter, he bursts into flame, sprouts a pair of preposterously large elephant legs, and uses his Z10 to magically turn an oncoming tractor-trailer into a bunch of rubber duckies.
"In 30 seconds, it's quicker to show you what it can't do," a voice-over announces.
BlackBerry seems to be going for quirky and memorable here – the idea being that consumers will be unlikely to forget the ad about the man with the elephant appendages. But many Twitter and Facebook users seemed confused by the spot. And probably for good reason: As Eric Zeman of InformationWeek points out, "the ad didn't show a close-up of the phone, the user interface nor anything the device can do." Nor, Zeman continues, did BlackBerry "provide one compelling reason why consumers should care about its brand new smartphone."
It's worth noting that an early Twitter favorite for best tech ad didn't show off a whole lot of features, either. But the Samsung ad sure was a lot of fun. Over two minutes, the actors Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd learn they have been hired to help Samsung create a "next big thing" campaign for their Galaxy devices; near the end (spoiler alert), they discover they have been effectively replaced by LeBron James, the basketball star.
"The spot gives Samsung a little extra bit of cool," notes Ken Wheaton of Ad Age, "and manages to repeat the tagline 'The Next Big Thing' seven times."