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The Daily Walk of Shame: Droid's Ad Bombs, Literally

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This new Motley Fool series examines things that just aren't right in the world of finance and investing. Here's what's got us riled today. If something's bugging you, too -- and we suspect it is -- go ahead and unload in the comments section below.

Today's subject: The new Droid smartphone, a joint effort by Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) , Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) , and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) to knock Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone from its shiny hipster pedestal, is getting glowing reviews ahead of its Nov. 6 debut. But the ad campaign promoting the phone would be laughably awful -- if it weren't so disturbing.

Why you should be indignant: The slick 60-second ad that premiered on TV last night begins with a sleek phalanx of black stealth fighters roaring through the skies. Faceless behind their flight helmets, the jets' pilots open their bomb-bay doors, and begin firing bulky rocket-propelled pods indiscriminately toward the earth below.

Who are they bombing? Us, apparently -- or at least, a mostly photogenic array of regular Americans, depicted at weathered gas stations, driving tractors on their farms, wrangling horses, hiking in the mountains, or driving down lonely desert roads. With a cheerful disregard for life, limb, and property, the pods slam into the ground, narrowly missing houses, gas pumps, and one very fortunate fisherman's boat. Cars swerve off the road, horses flee in panic, and smoke billows from the massive craters left by the fallen pods.

Curious, the onlookers approach. As the smoke clears, the pods' bulky armor plating suddenly whirs open. A probe juts out menacingly, brandishing a Droid phone whose glowing red eye suggests the illegitimate offspring of a one-night stand between the Eye of Sauron and the HAL 9000. We cut to teaser text touting the Droid's "drop date" -- presumably just before the hapless onlookers are vaporized by some sort of alien heat ray.

The Droid! Raining randomly from the sky to blast holes in your property and claw its way into your heart! With actual claws!

Between the calculatedly folksy Americana, the loving depiction of military hardware, the mass destruction plunging from the heavens in trails of fire, and the transforming robots, someone at that ad agency has clearly seen way too many Michael Bay movies. (It lacks only shirtless, sweaty Marines and an American flag waving against a sunset.)

Even if you ignore the ad's queasy combination of warfare and commerce -- I don't exactly want to buy a product being sold via a bombing run -- I simply can't understand how Motorola, Verizon, and Google think that positioning their product as a destructive, hostile menace is going to endear it to anyone. The iPhone's ads make it look cool, hip, and empowering. This Droid ad makes it seem poised to enslave us all.

What now? The "Stealth" ad is somehow even worse than the previous Droid TV spot. "iDon't," a smug parody of Apple's iPhone ads, touted all the things the Droid could do that the iPhone couldn't. Unfortunately, most of those supposed advantages were the sort of technical nitpicks only hardcore nerds would care about ("iDon't allow open development"). And as god among geeks Andy Ihnatko argued in The Chicago Sun-Times, the ad's claims are "baloney. (Mostly.)"

Dear Motorola, Verizon, and Google: If you want to make a better smartphone than the iPhone, don't try to set it apart with snide but paper-thin distinctions. And don't oversell it with a testosterone-addled shock-and-awe campaign that seems creepy and disrespectful in light of the actual Americans in actual wars who are fighting, dying, and yes, killing.

Just … you know … make a better phone. Between the three of you, it shouldn't be that hard to pull off.

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool online editor Nathan Alderman's cell phone has the amazing, high-tech ability to send and receive telephone calls. And a color screen! He holds no financial position in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy is more R2-D2 than T-800.

Read/Post Comments (28) | Recommend This Article (32)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 1:53 PM, motleyfooldrools wrote:

    No, it shouldn't be that hard to pull off. It should be as easy as writing meaningless drivel for an internet article.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 1:54 PM, DefunctAcct wrote:

    I have the same reaction. It is a stupid Ad but there is a fine line depicting what is acceptable and what is not. The people behind this has a callous disregard or complete ignorance of our governing system. May be they are not Americans? How far does "artistic freedom" and "First Amendment" carry such stupidity?

    A phone that needs mayhem and harm done to our own people by our own military in order to sell? When our young men and women are currently serving in harm's way? Even in a dumb attention-craving Ad or a dumb movie, it tests one's patience and intelligence.

    This ranks up there with Palm's stupid iPod-faking antic.

    I was a cautious fan of the Droid but now I hope it flops. Corporations doing business in this country need to balance profits with proper respect for our country. I don't care to have a product that sells itself by appealing to mayhem on Americans.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 2:12 PM, TMFCop wrote:

    What annoyed me most was finding out it was an ad for a phone. I thought it was going to be a cool new movie or TV show. Other than that I liked it.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 2:24 PM, spinindog wrote:

    The ad might not have made any sense, but I watched every single second of it.First time I haven't muted or skipped a commercial in ages. If I didn't already know about the droid, I do now.

    Man, you guys are really sensitive. I hope what I have said doesn't hurt your limp wrists. Now run off to your therapists...

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 2:41 PM, DwightKSchrute wrote:

    spinidog is right. You may find the ad distasteful and/or insulting. You may not like it for any number of reasons. But you know it. More importantly, you know the product it's pitching. That's effective advertising. And that's what advertisers are paid to accomplish.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 2:46 PM, EdisonsMedicine wrote:

    Geez. I thought it was a neat add and not at all disrespectful. So sensitive...

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 2:48 PM, jmt587 wrote:

    I agree, I thought the ad was terrible, given what's going on around the world. Could have been a good ad for Red Dawn up until the last 3 seconds, but terrible ad to sell a phone.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 3:27 PM, FoolsSpecialK22 wrote:

    Stop all this foolishness! O.O I liked the ad. It has action, bombs, suspense. The public knows something's coming up between the companies to watch out for. It accomplished its goal.

    Two thumbs up! :)

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 3:48 PM, catoismymotor2 wrote:

    Nathan, will I dream?

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 5:04 PM, THNKFRST wrote:

    I did not see the add, but I love the description. I'll buy mine next week.

    Nice writing, unfortunately I prefer non-fiction and serious content.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 5:16 PM, Patrikbc wrote:

    can it be used for self defense?

    Cellphones... they aren't just for sissy's anymore! throw out your PDA, here comes the PDB (portable deathbot)

    I Like It!

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 6:42 PM, kedo76 wrote:

    I wonder if it kills you and launches you into space if it reads your lips that you are going to replace it with another phone...however, if it can create another planet for us to inhabit, that would be cool, even though we couldn't use Io or Europa (weren't those the ones that were off limits?)...

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 11:58 PM, thisislabor wrote:

    Does it come with a death ray! ok, fine, how about a tazer attachment!!

    that's what I thought when I saw the commercial and I was like oh wow how cool is that, now I can taze someone for fun!

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 10:40 AM, cbrathw8 wrote:

    C'mon Nathan, don't get your panties in a bunch. It was a good ad, and I especially liked the iDon't series...

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 2:00 PM, ReadEmAnWeep wrote:

    It was suppose to seem like these android phones were androids falling from the sky.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 2:02 PM, ReadEmAnWeep wrote:

    Listen to Spinindog. He nailed it.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 11:21 PM, shivy1 wrote:

    wow an ad showing destruction and mayhem, Welcome to America Nathan

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 8:50 AM, kstoltz wrote:

    I dunno. Proof seems to be in the pudding: The phone looks great and is getting great reviews.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 9:13 AM, Jtweez19 wrote:

    Is the ad campaign as good as Apple's?.. No. Should it be offensive to anyone?.. No. Trying to compete with Apple's ad campaign is tough as it is, the Droid has a lot of work to do.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 10:27 AM, XMFTheNew wrote:

    As more and more people watch TV using their DVRs and just fast-forward over ads, agencies are attempting to use story to draw in viewers and get them to watch the ad – much like how people view SuperBowl ads as entertainment and not sales pitches.

    This ad is *mocking* the Michael Bay epic-movie trailer -- because it is just a phone and not an alien invasion or the end of the world.

    A features-based ad like the button keyboard or the quality of reception or apps would work in concert with this ad campaign. But to really get attention, the Droid needs to make a splash.

    I think this a solid attempt. The ad got my attention. Lots of companies waste a lot more money on worse ads than this.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 1:10 PM, Racovius wrote:

    I saw bits of pieces of that ad, unfortunately due to my short attention span, I ignored it and changed the channel THINKING IT WAS another Michael Bay movie. Thank's for telling me the truth.

    I find it discpicable that there aren't more flag waving, cake baking, baseball playing families at the park in this ad. That should make "silivalley" happy. As a member of the Armed forces serving overseas, I too am angry that it did not show more "...callous disregard or complete ignorance of our governing system..." and bang bang bang in the anoos!!!!

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 2:06 PM, goodald wrote:


    It seems VZ's ads for doid/3g coverage are all over the place.

    -They've always hyped their network so I don't really find that they're really advertising anything drastically new.

    -There's really no information about the phones themselves.

    Apple's ads just come across as clean and focused on their product. I know what the iPhone does, the Droid? not so much.

    It will be interesting to see what the demographics of droid users ends up being.

    Personally, I'm rooting for the droid and may swap back to VZ down the road.

    Ultimately, the Droid is the best thing that could happen for iPhone users. It will spark a little competition for features like flash/multitasking - this will be a good year for both platforms.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 2:25 PM, Racovius wrote:

    Sorry, apologies in regards to my post. That was childish. So In the spirit of my apology, I would like to correct myself and say that was not my own quote. I plagarised it. So here it is again:

    "...bang bang bang in the anoos..."

    Again apologies.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2009, at 1:40 AM, Mary953 wrote:

    First reaction ("Bombs?" dropping?) - DUCK!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!

    Second reaction (Pods now plowing up fields everywhere) - Good Grief! They cloned Superman - Now where do we get enough kindly, old farmer couples to raise them all?

    Third reaction (People drawing near to look at the pods) - NO!! DUCK!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!

    Fourth reaction (pod opens) - What the...?

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2009, at 1:49 PM, VegasMartin wrote:

    I thought the ad was great. As soon as you saw those jets, it caught your attention. When the ad is over and you get a quick glimpse of the phone and the Verizon and Google logo, you are left wondering... what is that? I need to look that up. I think this was brilliant marketing.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2009, at 4:51 PM, gslusher wrote:

    I was appalled at the ad. If the fighters are intended to represent US forces, then it is especially egregious, as it depicts them attacking our own country. The pods cause injury, property damage, and frighten animals. Is that the image Verizon wants to attach to the Droid? Yes, the ad will probably appeal to young males, especially those prone to military fantasies. (Those who have seen real combat probably won't be as turned on.)

    FWIW, I served in the US Air Force for 22 years, spanning Vietnam through the Gulf War, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. The real military is nothing like the video game fantasies. Real people get hurt, real people die.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2009, at 12:36 PM, zeborg wrote:

    Wow, you're so PC. It's just a television commercial. Find something real to complain about.

  • Report this Comment On November 14, 2009, at 2:14 PM, DrBrianOblivion wrote:

    Must everything be so PC and sensitive? Funny that so many people liked the ad when they thought it would be a movie or TV show, but not when it became evident it was an ad. Maybe you shouldn't watch frightening movies either.

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