HP Would've Been Better Off Using Its Corporate Video Demo

Goodby's Spot Is More Confusing Than Enticing

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Let's talk for a moment about why the best TV spot ever created, "1984," was insane:

It introduced a revolutionary product, the Macintosh, destined to revolutionize personal computing. But there was no product shot.

Title: Maestro
Marketer: HP
stars
Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
This HP spot is more confusing than enticing.
It introduced the concept of onscreen icons and a handheld mouse but never demonstrated them.

It rendered IBM's (via Microsoft) DOS antiquated to the point of silliness, but it attempted no comparison.

As we were saying: lunacy. Except that Ridley Scott's epic rendering of Chiat/Day's brilliant concept hauntingly established Apple's brand image for all time. The premise was: IBM=Orwellian nightmare, Apple=liberation. Scott delivered. And 100 million-some Super Bowl viewers gaped like the devolved drones in the ad.

So had Chiat and Apple really lost their marbles? As it turns out, no. Emphatically no.

So, naturally, anybody with new technology need only create a visual tour de force, eh?

Well, uh, no. Emphatically no. For one thing, tours de force are a bit hard to come by; they are not synonymous with "extravagant production" or "nice effects." Secondly, they must command attention, but their impact requires at least as much storytelling as visual bombast. Simplicity has its virtues. Thirdly, the story has to be a metaphor for the brand message. (It also doesn't hurt to have a Super Bowl wrapped around it.)

So what, then, are we to make of the spot introducing Hewlett-Packard's second-generation TouchSmart PC? Like all of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners' gorgeous HP work, it's an extravagant production; there are images flying magically every which way. There's also a central metaphor (symphony conducting) and leading-edge technology barely demonstrated .

No need to draw this out. You know where we're headed: The commercial kind of sucks.

Oh, it's interesting to watch for a moment but more confusing than enticing; haven't we seen images flying magically around a thousand times before? By the time you get a glimpse here of the technology -- and only a glimpse -- you wonder, "What's with the conductor and all the visuals? What does that have to do with an all-in-one desktop that works like an iPhone?" As a metaphor, it's strained. As a narrative -- well, it has none. The voiced-over tagline -- "The computer as you've never felt it before" -- is OK, but has little to do with anything we've just seen, save the three-second demo.

So why, why, why go in this direction? Is Goodby being paid by the terabyte?

Forsaking full-on demonstration for this product really is nuts -- a fact made crystal clear in the corporate video not on TV, which does show the TouchSmart in action, and within about four seconds makes you want to run to BestBuy with your Visa card waving. It all looks so marvelously easy and intuitive and futuristic.

Or maybe not. Perhaps the utility of a touch screen is less than meets the eye. Mouse and keyboard usage cause carpal tunnel syndrome; God knows what lies in store for our shoulders and spines as we reach, reach out zillions of times to touch something. But nonetheless, in terms of all-in-one sizzle, TouchSmart is a large step ahead of iMac.

Perhaps that bears repeating: "ahead of iMac." In a world of John Hodgman vs. Justin Long, is it too much to suggest that a side-by-side comparison might be in order? It's just a thought, and not necessarily necessary. Lopping off the first 30 seconds of the product video would do just fine. That wouldn't be "1984" either. But it would be at least a touch smarter.
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