A month after announcing it, Samsung has begun advertising its Galaxy Gear “smartwatch” on television. The first ad features clips from various movies and TV shows of people talking into and tinkering with watches that were more than just watches. It concludes with a shot of someone using a Galaxy Gear. The implication was that we now finally live in the future, thanks to Samsung.
Many people immediately noted that the ad was reminiscent of Apple’s original 2007 ad for the iPhone, titled simply “Hello.” The easy thing to say here is that this is just another instance of Samsung aping Apple. It’s a reasonable charge, but it’s also lazy. These ads are alike in appearance and nothing more.
First, it’s only fair to point out that the “Hello” ad is not typical Apple advertising. Apple’s ads are historically plain, to the point, and focused entirely around the product itself. In “Hello”, we see the product for a split second, after a barrage of licensed content with no connection to Apple or Apple products. There’s a reason for that departure, which also must be noted, because Samsung clearly did not.
The “Hello” ad worked on a number of levels:
- It was a playful introduction to the product
- It set very low but still very real expectations to build perspective
- It clearly demonstrated progress in technology and design
The message behind “Hello”, and its distinction from the usual Apple product advertisements, was and still is clear: You are not ready for this, so we need to formally introduce you.
The iPhone dramatically tore down our understanding of everything that preceded it: phones; computers; software; the Internet; how we consume information; how we communicate; how we are (not) beholden to gigantic infrastructure companies that basically hate us. It’s all done differently now. The Way Things Are was about to become The Way Things Were. So, “Hello.”
The Galaxy Gear ad, and the Galaxy Gear itself, convey none of this. The ad primes us with decades of fantastic expectations — expectations which just about any review of the product you can find will tell you have not been met. It also implicitly, and very ironically, shows just how lacking in vision the product itself is. The iPhone ad says, “We’re starting over.” The Gear ad says, “We tried to make that exact thing you’ve seen on TV all these years.”
One of the common cheapshots following the Gear announcement back in September was “This is what we get when Samsung doesn’t have anything to copy.” This new ad is Samsung’s reply. “I beg your pardon, we absolutely copied!” It demonstrates not just a lack of creativity in the product, but also a complete lack of awareness in its marketing.
This all stands just the same whether or not you think the TV spot is actually derivative. The problem with this ad is not that it’s ripping anyone off. The problem with this ad is that it exhibits everything wrong with Samsung as a company.