What’s HTC up to with its new ad campaign?

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“Here’s to change”, that’s the message behind HTC’s newest ad campaign. If you didn’t catch the message the first time you watched the new ad, you’re not alone. The Taiwanese smartphone maker has inked a deal with Robert Downey Jr. for two years at a cost of US$12 million for a series of advertisements that are, well, “bold”, and somewhat confusing. Even for a company that’s not hurting as much as HTC is, that’s big. What’s up the new HTC ad campaign?

HTC is finally cranking out some high-end and well-accepted devices. HTC says the One is selling better than its previous flagship models. Even still, HTC is not doing too well. According to their own numbers, last month’s profits fell over 80 percent. That sounds pretty dire on the surface, but it according to the plan HTC had provided investors earlier. Even still, HTC projects they’ll have an operating loss for Q3 2013. That’s something that hasn’t happened often in the past — if at all.

What’s going wrong?

HTC used to be the company to go to when you wanted to make an awesome piece of consumer electronics. HP, Compaq, Google, and other big-name companies used HTC to design and produce PDAs and smartphones. They were well-built and well-designed. What happened?

Where is Compaq today? How about HP? Neither one are in the smartphone business any more. How about Google? Google partners with other companies to build its phones — HTC, followed by Samsung, and more recently LG. The days of manufacturing a product for someone may be a thing of the past. In today’s economy, the companies who used to design and manufacture products for others are now doing so for themselves.

  • Samsung designs and builds for Samsung.
  • LG designs and builds for LG.
  • Motorola designs and builds for Motorola.
  • Nokia designs and builds for Nokia.
  • Apple designs and outsources fabrication.

Let’s break it down by operating system

Apple is a closed environment. Apple designs its own hardware and has someone else build it.

Nokia and Microsoft are in bed together, so the Windows Phone space is almost entirely dominated by phones made by Nokia — and bankrolled (in part) by Microsoft.

Android handsets are being led by Samsung. LG is still playing a good game. HTC is trying to play, but it’s split between two worlds, and not doing terribly well in either.

Going all-in

HTC has to become relevant among the “big players” — either that or go back to its old business model and become another company like Foxconn (which also operates out of Taiwan). Whatever it does, it needs to do it fast.

To that end, HTC is going all-in. Its ad campaign not only stars Downey, but allows him to “inject his own style” in the advertisements. Downey is cocky. He’s confident. He doesn’t care if he steps on other people’s toes in the process. If you don’t like it, get out of the way.

In the first ad of the campaign, a lot of people are seen providing their thoughts on what HTC means. “Humongous tinfoil catamaran.” “Hipster Troll Carwash.” “Hot tea catapult.” “Hold this cat.” “Happy telephone company.”

Gone are the days where HTC was “quietly brilliant”. In the end, HTC is “anything you want it to be”.

Now it’s time for HTC to speak out and shine. It has to. So, to use a line from the ad, “Okay, pumpkins. Focus up. Look alive. Tuck in your tailpipes. Subversive thinking has arrived.”

Will it work?

Is HTC’s new campaign crazy or brilliant? Are those mutually exclusive? Is it worth the millions upon millions of dollars HTC will spend over the next few years trying to educate people about the company? Does this ad make you more or less likely to buy an HTC product?

If you haven’t seen the commercial yet, here you go. Watch the ad, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Update

HTC responded to my post to this article on Twitter. Hopefully this sheds a little light on the intent behind the campaign — straight from the source.

HTC Responds
In response, yes HTC. At Pocketnow as Joe the Android Guy™, I’m all about innovation and empowering users. You bet you can count me in!

Image credit: HTC

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.