I find advertising campaigns fascinating because they indicate how companies want themselves to be seen. Done right, an ad campaign is a direct line into the corporate mind, for better or worse.
I was traveling in the Paris Metro (subway) system recently and spotted these two advertisements during my commute. Both are by major technology companies, both tout new flagship mobile products and both are plastered all over the place here in France's capital.
One is for Samsung's new Galaxy S III smartphone, an impressive, fully featured device (read CNET's review here; they gave it an editor's choice award) that the Korean company hopes will help eat into the lead of Apple's iPhone.
Here it is:
It's a part of a massive marketing campaign for the device, its biggest ever.
The other is for the latest model of Apple's iPad, adhering to the tried-and-true format the company has used for years:
As you can see, both spots feature the devices in vivid detail, no doubt to show off the resolution of each device's display.
But do you spot the incongruity? Samsung's tag-line for the Galaxy S III is that it's "designed for humans," yet features nary a fleshy digit. In contrast, Apple proclaims nothing of the sort, yet shows its device in use by a well-manicured hand model.
A criticism of Apple's rivals, whether for laptops or smartphones, has been that their stuffed-with-features devices fail to present a unified, intuitive, natural experience to the consumer. Retina display proclamations aside, Apple usually doesn't sell its products based on its components; it'd rather show you what you can do with it. Samsung, Motorola, HTC and others have often resisted humanizing their electronic products, taking a more geek-focused tack ("Droid," anyone?) that prioritize speeds and feeds.
Both sides offer cold electronic devices made of metal and glass, but one side emphasizes it in the name of cool, and the other deemphasizes it in the name of humanity.
While Samsung's device is quite capable of winning over consumers, and its new campaign clearly intended to humanize its product, there remain vestiges of this old mentality, as seen in the above ad spot. Its television advertisements for the same campaign are much more successful in being intimate in this way, but there's still a gap in the abstraction: there are humans, and there are devices, and there are even humans holding devices. But there aren't humans using the devices in a way that demonstrates their utility.
Apple wants you to hold its devices; Samsung wants you to behold its devices. It's an interesting difference in messaging.