Smartphone Advertising: Harder, better, faster – yet as daft as you are punk.

The battle for your hands and pockets has reached fever pitch as the apparent pinnacle of our Technological civilisation, The Smartphone has reached a plateau in innovation.

Actually that’s slightly disingenuous, there is still massive innovation happening in the industry, but appears to appeal solely to phone geeks. Thinner screens, increased battery life, better cameras, better graphics, improved UX – all good. But who’s impressed?

Meet the new phone, same as the old phone.

However as was seen with the Galaxy S4 and to an extent the IPhone 5 launch the blogosphere, if not the public, are getting increasingly nonplused about our current crop of top end handsets.

We’ve passed the point where these new devices will dramatically change your life. Sure, you still have ‘new phone smell’ but its impact has diminished over time since that first blissful app purchase. They’ve even lost social talkability – they won’t make you the coolest kid on the block as you join the daily telephonic beauty parade with your friends, unless you are a rebel of course with a Blackberry or Windows 8 phone where there might be some mild curiosity.

Faster! Lighter! Stronger! Longer Best yet! New & Improved! Blah.

These aren’t the words of innovation but iteration. To be honest it’s more FMCG than Luxury IT. I can just see Don Draper, getting his ‘creative’ on sketching out a fifties super-mom, next to the sink, vacuum cleaner strategically place with the a new phone in one hand and Camel filterless in the other. ‘Because sometimes, a burden shared is a burden halved’.

Waiting in the wings of course is the next little thing. This years arms race is the over abundance of smart watches to be strapped to us by year end. Of course for me, the last watch I wore was a Casio calculator watch in the eighties, so it offers the opportunity to relive my geeky childhood(?!?). The joke is of course this will reduce necessity to have the latest and greatest phone, placing it even further down your priority list.

So What’s the Story?

Microsoft launched their shiny new telly ad for the Nokia 920 this week; a mildly amusing fistfight between Apple and Samsung users at a wedding, with the strapline ‘Don’t Fight. Switch’. Pretty much describing Microsoft and Nokia’s own fortunes over the last decade. Should probably say ‘Switch back’. Even though it had ‘an idea’ it still left me cold so I decided to check out the various offline campaigns from the competition and was pretty horrified.

For once I’m going to have to use some visual aids:


Objectives

Normally I would reverse engineer an individual campaign but frankly they are so much of a muchness it’s hard to discern one from the other, so instead I’ve decided to lump them all together and focus on decoding the combined objectives. Before I begin I can say, ‘I feel their pain’.

Create a positive distinction in category

Faster, more clarity, easier, more connected, less connected, sings happy birthday on voice command, tells you where to go and occasionally to get lost, stores your precious memories as you lost your own and most importantly show that we’re not Apple – even if we are!

Illustrate typical useage

Look at me you can take pictures and keep in touch with your friends! Oh yeah and Apps, Apps, and more Apps. Please make sure you never ever show anyone actually talking on it.

Demonstrate new product features

You can shoot pictures of yourself whilst stalking somebody, catch the errant bathing suit with our rewind feature, or assist in having your house burgled by constantly reminding people you aren’t at home. Not to forget the ‘with new and improved yadda yadda’!

Appeal to a broad (any) demographic

…as long as it isn’t geeks. We especially like young, white, active, healthy, thin, affluent hipster types messing around with fountains, skateboards, and on the odd mountaintop. They must all be overly attached to hugging their friends for no apparent reason whilst not appearing to be on drugs. Feel free to be ‘quirky’ to demonstrate openness but only within the bounds of ‘Friends’, not ‘Animal House’. If necessary you can throw in a bit of an ethnic mix to show that we don’t discriminate.

Build on the emotional connection between you and your phone

Please ensure there are plenty of babies, grannies, little kids, graduations, holidays, romantic dinners and sunrises all brought to you by us. Make sure they know it never happened if you didn’t take a picture of it, and update your status.

Show off the sleek lightweight design

It’s like – a screen with like really smooth edges, and like some really cool bevels, or even better sharp edges denoting precision. But the best thing is it’s so huge you will need to get new pockets to make it fit or so small you’ll need to get the holes in your pockets fixed and…Oh yeah It’s like shiny!

Reassure users that your phone is the smart buy

Show others with competing phones to be exactly the opposite of your cool, suave, white-ish hipster types. Where possible provide situations to illustrate them to be poor befuddled disempowered sheep and/or zombies with no will of their own. Especially when you are trying to convince them to switch from one brand to another.

Be Smug

Be smug.

Tips for the top

  1. The transition from life altering to commodity does not provide an excuse for abuse. Insulting the audience intelligence is rarely a good move. The same people who you target online and create those extraordinary engagement programmes for, are most likely the same people who watch your ads. Even if they don’t watch them on telly, they will see them and rate you accordingly.
  2. See 1

Are we really the people that these campaigns profess to appeal to? Do they exist? If so the world is a pretty scary place. Now I must remember to tweet that, whilst hugging someone.

Jon Bains is a partner at business futures practice Atmosphere

Book your place now for Digital For Business Leaders – a one-day workshop for decision makers that will give you an understanding of digital’s impact on business, and provide you with a roadmap to plan your organisation’s future. To find out more and book your place on the session in London (May 17), Manchester (May 23) or Glasgow (May 24), click here.

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