Motorola Xoom Super Bowl Ad

Drones with headphones in, wearing identical clothing pack a subway station waiting for the train to arrive, a man walks through the crowd, standing out in “normal” clothes carrying a tablet. He is reading George Orwell’s novel 1984 on the tablet. Finds a florist on a Google maps type application, he turns and goes against the crowd. Back in the crowd, filing on to an elevator, he his holding flowers that stand out in the world of white. ‘She’ gets on the elevator, turns, her face seems to be brighter and stand out more than everyone else. From his desk, topped with nick-knacks and a colorful green plant, he looks at her. He magically swipes his fingers across the tablet a couple of times, and then rolls down the isle of cubicles to her. She turns, sees the tablet propped up on her desk, playing an animation as he steps in behind the tablet; she takes out her white headphones, stands up, he smiles. “The Tablet to Create a Better World” appears on the tablet full screen then the Motorola Xoom logo. Below that it reads, The world’s first Android 3.0 tablet. Finally on the tablet the Motorola logo appears saying “Life. Powered.”

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Motorola has thrown a metaphorical hammer at Apple.

This ad for the Motorola Xoom aired during the second quarter of the Super Bowl this year. Created by the Anomaly New York advertising company, this ad was targeted toward white 17-45 year olds in the middle to upper classes with white collar, 9-5 jobs, with interest in technology, usability, and creativity. This ad targets the loyal Apple “followers” as well as those who have not bought into the Apple craze at all. My reasons for this specific target audience are all based on the commercial. All of the background extra’s are white, between 17 and 45, working in cubicles in a seemingly white collar job that begins at a very specific time (everyone at the subway station at the same time).

The Subtext

The White

All of the white in this commercial, clothing, headphones, walls, floors, lights, subway car, steps, elevator, desks, may at first seem to create a clean, “high-tech” feeling to the commercial. However Motorola is directly referencing to Apple’s branding with their white heavy ads and products: the original iPod (white), the original Macbook (white), the original Macintosh (white, well off white). White for Apple represents clean and high tech, however, for Motorola it stands oppression, brainwashing, emptiness.  Motorola counters the oppression by dressing their character differently, giving him the freedom to choose. He is wearing gray and black, a sharp contrast to the white. He stands out as different and even opposite.

To further understand the subtext of this commercial, you must first have seen Apple’s 1984 advertisement for the newly arriving Apple Computer.

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George Orwell’s 1984

As you saw in the original Apple ad, they referenced 1984 as the force they must never allow to come to power. The one sentence summary of the book from Wikipedia says that it is set in “a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control.”  In the Apple ad they were fighting the feared mind control and surveillance of the technology giant IBM.

By Motorola having their character reading this text, they are saying to Apple:

You are what you once hated; you have become what you once fighting against.

The character in this ad stands out from the crowd, reading the book, looking in on the world, observing the inhumanity of a controlled society. He has broken away. Motorola is the way to break away.

Addressing the Unpopularity

When talking to my friends the day after the Super Bowl, many of them didn’t remember the Motorola Ad at all. I think that this was for two big reasons: 1) it wasn’t overtly funny and 2) they didn’t get it. Most ads apply humor to in order to get people to remember it. On Monday I heard many people talking about the Pepsi and Doritos ads and how they were so funny. The Motorola ad, to me, was funny in a different way. It was funny because of the huge shot they took towards Apple. As I have explained above, the ad tears Apple down as being the IBM of today. Secondly, most people my age did not understand the context. When talking to Dr. Tracy, I found out that she immediately recognized the ad and its relation to the original Apple 1984 ad. I think that the generation that saw Apple take down IBM in their ad see’s the relationship that this Motorola commercial has with it. For the viewer’s that were my age and not well versed in advertising, they just wrote this ad off as one of the un-funny, or serious commercials and forgot about it, if they even watched it all the way through.

Tools of Persuasion Used

Motorola used multiple tools to persuade the targeted audience into believing that the Xoom will allow them to break away from the oppression of Apple:

Association

Motorola associates, negatively, that people who use Apple are brain washed, under the company’s control, and have no freedoms. By visually showing that they are the opposite, they create a positive association for their product.

Fear

In this case fear is used similarly to association. If you are using Apple products then you could become like these people who mindlessly go to and from work with no freedom and as Americans this lose of freedom is one of our greatest fears.

Flattery

The technique is used to say very covertly that you, the consumer, are better than these people. You can be different; you can rise above the mind control, like our character if you use our product.

Name Calling

Apple used it in their 1984 ad, calling IBM a big brother control company. This time around they are the ones being called out by Motorola. By calling Apple an oppressor, they offer their alternative, the Xoom.

New

This technique is used to say that this new tablet, this better tablet, will get you out of your controlled, oppressed state and into a better life, maybe even the cute girl at work.

Positive/Negative Messages

Motorola presents the positive message that they are better, different. People should recognize that there is the option out there for a better tablet and that there is hope to break away from big brother. By saying that Motorola is the opposite of Apple, they are implying that Apple is negative. This ad is saying that everyone who is using an iPad is conforming to the Apple lifestyle and are being brainwashed into doing exactly as they are told.

Power

This message empowers people who have not bought in to the apple hype, who want to be different from the company who originally said “Think Different.” It empowers the people who are looking for another option in the tablet world other than Apple. On the other hand it disempowers everyone who has bought into Apple and the iPad craze. It says that they are all controlled and have no say in their life. They are shown as conformist, possibly forced by the big brother company into buying and using their products.

What’s Not There

This ad leaves me with many questions about what isn’t being show. Questions like: What can be done on this device that makes it so much better than the iPad? What can be done on the iPad that cannot be done on the Xoom? What is the price difference? Is it more expensive? If so, why? Where will you be able to buy it? When? These questions have a serious impact on if I buy the product. While this ad is an amazing example of intertextualization, or referencing other texts within a text, this commercial tells me relatively little about the actual product. I admit, I am interested to find out what this product is all about, but my decision to buy will be based on much, much more than the commercial alone. Who knows, maybe after a comparison, I will still pick Apple’s iPad, but Motorola’s ad has certainly encouraged questioning the power, going against the flow, and choosing something different from everyone else.

The “vs” image above was created by myself and contains the Motorola logo used from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Motorola.svg and the Apple logo taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_logo_Think_Different.png