Guess who keeps doing it wrong.
Earlier today I touched on something in my coverage of Gartner's latest tablet predictions. There's a major difference between the way Apple markets the iPad, and the way Android tablet-makers market their products. Let's take a look...
The original iPad commercial opens with this:
A plain, white screen with big friendly letters that set up what you're about to see: an assortment of applications juxtaposed with their real-world uses. At all times, the focus is on what the tablet is doing. One picture, followed by a one-word description. As effective as it was, the ad could have easily been designed by someone using a $500 laptop and pirated video editing software. It is simple.
Now, let's look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab's first TV spot. It opens with this:
No focus on the product, no focus on the brand. Just a big glass building with some hip suit-wearing dude walking out. Samsung's ad starts off-message, establishing the atmosphere before they show us the product. This is a critical flaw that we'll see just a little bit later with Motorola's ad. To its credit, the Galaxy Tab ad gets better from that opening.
We quickly move to the Galaxy Pad in use. Here Samsung's focus is flawless. They keep the product center-stage for the rest of the commercial, and do an admirable job of showcasing its uses. But the voiceover is still a problem here. Too many words, and it makes the add far too reliant on volume. Millions of us keep the TV muted when commercials are on. Half of us probably skip ahead on the DVR. Apple's ads work as well on mute as they do with sound.
Speaking of Apple, let's move on to the second iPad 2 commercial. Here's how it opens:
An iPad 2 'waking up' in a dark room, its black bezel faded almost entirely into the surrounding environment. This will be a theme for the remainder of the commercial. The visual emphasis is always on how unobtrusive the iPad 2 is.
The actual tablet itself disappears into the background in every shot. The focus almost always rests on what the iPad 2 can do, and how elegantly it does it. There's a voice-over on this one, but you don't need it to pick up on any key point. By the time Apple's voice actor says, "When technology gets out of the way...everything becomes more delightful" your brain has already picked up on that fact. This whole commercial is about form getting out of function's way.
Now we move on to the first Motorola Xoom commercial.
Once again, we open on some meathead in fancy clothing- this time a square jawed protagonist in a slick jacket. And Johnny Rico here isn't even walking towards a Xoom tablet. He looks like he's approaching an Obelisk of Light. Do they have a lot of Nod activity, out there on the docks?
The Xoom flickers briefly into view atop the obelisk, before the perspective switches and we get our first actual look at the product.
But we're immediately pulled away from the tablet as some giant spaceship thing roars out of it and envelops Captain Shoulders. At no point does the commercial touch on real-life uses of this tablet. Focusing entirely on the Xoom as a gaming device is a bad idea, and focusing on only one game is just preposterous. People won't spend $800 on Wing Commander Tablet.
Now, we move to the last commercial in our tableau of failure. Motorola's ludicrously expensive Super Bowl commercial. It's worth noting that, with roughly 100,000 Xoom sales, Moto may have spent more on this ad than they'll ever make in profit from the tablet. Here's how this boondoggle opens:
Alright, it's a Super Bowl ad. High concept is expected. Motorola gets a pass on that. And hearkening back to Apple's famous 1984 commercial was clever, ballsy. So far we're doing alright. But then this happens:
Another male model, this one cut from a Pattisonian mould. By now you've probably noticed something interesting. iPad ads never focus on a person. The most we ever see are hands. Every single Android tablet ad starts out focused on a young, male "Protagonist". We always see Him before we see the product.
The fact that the first two Android tablets produced by major manufacturers have both failed isn't coincidental. From the start, Apple's would-be rivals made almost every mistake possible in marketing their products. They've shown us giant spaceships and bus stations full of robe-wearing cultists, but they haven't shown us a good reason to drop serious cash on an Android tablet. Samsung was closer to the mark than Motorola- and I have high hopes for the Galaxy Tab's ad campaign- but so far Apple's rivals have been about as off-message as possible. At this point, I can see Apple dominating the market for another four years. No one is exactly rushing up to take it from them.