'The Next Big Thing' isn't iPhone

Last night I watched Samsung TV commercial "The Next Big Thing is Already Here" about a dozen times on YouTube. I'm a sucker for good advertising, and this one is clever to a punch and already is viral among tech blogs. Apple used to make adverts like this one -- inventive, clever, memorable -- now they're staid and boring. Anyone remember Apple's hugely successful "Switchers" and "Get a Mac" marketing campaigns from the last decade? This new TV spot is a hilarious poke at yokels waiting in line for the newest iPhone, all without mentioning Apple; meanwhile something better is already here -- from Samsung.

Now before some commenter calls me anti-Apple, because I watched the commercial a dozen times and it snarks the iPhone cult, my interest is bigger. The advert is clever in so many ways, particularly how it uses jump cuts or little touches make it real. Example: When the iPhone line waiters ask to see a Samsung Galaxy S II, the owner holds it up. Someone in the line leans forward, raises his arm and says: "Can I see it with my hands?" I've embedded the long version above, which isn't as tight or dramatic as the 60-second spot. There's something to be said about tighter editing, more closeups and shorter jump cuts. The 30-second edit is good, too. Update: The 15-second ad is absolutely cruel.

"The Next Big Thing" is among the best tech ads I've seen in years. But it's not the only one recently notable, and, unsurprisingly, to sell smartphones. Last week, I praised the new commercial for the Google-branded, Samsung-manufactured Galaxy Nexus. The advert is aspirational in the best ways, showing how the phone can empower you. Both commercials share a similar quality: Emphasis on the individual, over the crowd, which is startling considering how group oriented is the Millennial generation -- where sometimes it seems standing out is a crime.

"You" is everything in marketing. The best advertising shows how product X, Y or Z makes your life better. It's part of the allure of Apple nomenclature, by the way -- the "i" products. You read iPhone, iPod or iTunes but the connotation is something bigger: I, the capital letter. When I stands alone it is capitalized and refers to you, the subject. You read iPhone but really say IPhone as in my phone. Subliminal connotations have emotional hooks that, whether people want to admit it or not, impact buying decisions. Ask yourself: How often do you buy something ultimately because it feels right?

Circling back to this empowering the individual theme, there are other recent, excellent smartphone advertising examples. HTC's "Get Closer to Your Contacts" is another exceptional commercial. Here a female artist uses the photos of friends from the People hub of her Windows Phone to create a collage. The phone empowers her to express individual creativity from those folks most important to her: "In the right hands it brings you closer".

The commercial's tone reminds of an older promotional for the Nokia N79. Here a fashion designer uses the phone: "My online life has to stay with me all the time". Nokia doesn't get enough credit for its marketing, that's in part because there's so little of it in the United States and tech bloggers and journalists here are too obsessed with iPhone. Nokia marketing is exceptionally good, and it's one of the major reasons for the mobile device maker's global success. Nokia's challenge now is to reignite the kind of marketing for Windows Phone that put Symbian into the hands of billions.

By comparison, Apple advertising, while still aspirational, feels all the same. There's a dryness to commercials promoting Siri on iPhone or iPad 2 benefits. They're not bad adverts, just not as clever or memorable as those from the last decade. Meanwhile, competitors do much better. I can't emphasize the importance of that. I remember, for example, when only Apple advertised MP3 players, so is it any wonder people bought iPod when seemingly the only choice? Apple is renown for its marketing, but that's an advantage competitors are chipping away. Enjoy the embedded videos.

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