The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Advertising Age: What is the 'central
Idris Mootee: There are many. When I first met
with them [HTC], I said, 'Having a great product is not enough. You
have to have a great story to tell. And telling a good story is not
enough; you've got to have a strong core, so that your story is
very anchored; you're authentic. There's one really successful
company in this world, one trillion-dollar company.
How can you compete with the big companies? Everybody asks the
same question. The thing is: we don't compete. Nobody competes with
those companies in terms of spend. I think competing in spend is
not the right question. It's one of many equations in term of
competition. Apple did not have the money to spend to compete with
Ad Age: The premium smartphone world is ruled
by Samsung, which spends considerably on
marketing, and Apple, which, comparatively, doesn't. Where does HTC
Mr. Mootee: In the current state, it's about:
how do you create the emotive connection between this product (he
points to his HTC phone) and the individual. [That] is the most
important thing. I think Apple has been quite successful -- not
quite, has been very successful, not very, has been super
successful -- in connecting people to something that's just an
electronic product. They stand for something bigger -- bigger than
the brand. The other company, which is a massive brand and
enterprise, doesn't stand for anything except for profit.
Ad Age: Do you mean Samsung?
Mr. Mootee: Yea. Or, "the other company."
Ad Age: In the U.S., you've been promoting the
One M8 with the "Ask the Internet" campaign. Will you continue
Mr. Mootee: No. Unless Google is paying me, why
am I sending people to the internet? Who doesn't ask the internet?
Who do I ask? I don't ask my Mom. The strategy itself behind it --
there's some good thinking around it, but I don't think it makes
sense at all. We were the first to
create a campaign based on the world's, I dunno, probably the
most expensive and popular artist -- and create a disastrous
campaign. It is not easy to do.
Ad Age: So, it sounds like you're taking a
whole new direction?
Mr. Mootee: I would say, yes. Compared to the
last two years, a whole new direction. Compared to five years ago,
not a whole new direction. So we spent a long time thinking about
who we are.
It helps to communicate the aspiration of the company. Often,
people think this company is just a manufacturer or a technology
company. We have a culture of a very quiet company; there's not a
lot of salesmanship or showmanship. Today, we need to do that. We
try to tell these stories, without losing the essence, the core of
who we are. We don't want to go out there and shout loud, but we do
want to tell a very authentic story.
Ad Age: You debuted the new creative work for
the One M9 this week. Talk to me about the strategy behind
Mr. Mootee: We hired the world's most
expensive, most popular star, Robert Downey Jr. And then I called
him. 'You're going to have to help us.' He said, 'Again?' 'Yes,
In the studio, I said, 'I don't want to show your face.' He
said, 'Oh, great.' We don't want the view that we're trying to
commoditize an artist. It's not a celebrity endorsement. Somehow, I
don't know why, it happened in the past -- it feels like someone
paying him to say something. It never works. It's not like we're
selling beer or whiskey. So, we create a story. It's so poetic.
It's very, very different. Nothing fancy. Just to tell our
Ad Age: Did you work with an agency for the
Mr. Mootee: We worked internally. There's more
of a centralization happening. It's a global brand. We have to run
it as global. We have to look at how we do more things ourselves,
so we're more agile, efficient. We cannot do more of a traditional
way of advertising. I don't think the traditional way works for us.
So we want to try harder. We want to have a much more global
integration, we want to be more social and we want to have more
But these words are overused. It doesn't mean anything, I know.
I hate to say that, but it's true. Engagement means different
things. For some people, looking at a TV commercial for 30 seconds
There's also emotive engagement when people feel like someone is
attacking a brand I like. There's almost, for one second, an urge
for me to defend. That's different engagement. People love us;
that's why we're still around today. But I don't think enough
people do. How do we build that emotive connector?
Ad Age: What about the new Vive product. What's
your strategy to market that?