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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.