October 23, 2009, 1:36 AM — I'm spending this week visiting my parents, and when I visit my parents, I end up spending a lot more time watching TV sports than I do normally. Which turned out to be pretty useful for me, actually, because I got to see Verizon's "Droid Does" ad, in heavy rotation:
As an Apple fan, a tech observer, and someone interested in how advertising works in general, I found this pretty interesting. To be honest, the first thing that struck me about it was how gendered it was. The opening sequence features black text mocking the iPhone's inadequacies scrolling by on a white background; the text has the look and feel of an Apple ad, and playing in the background is exactly the sort of indie-pop song with a female vocal that's become strongly identified with Apple's advertising (think Fiest's "1234" or Yael Naim's "New Soul"). It's not feminine, exactly, but it's certainly, well, cute. Then, suddenly, the screen flicker to black, and we get vaguely menacing computer noises, as the phrase "Droid Does" takes shape Transformers-style on the over-pixelated screen. It's reminiscent of the sort of graphics you'd see in a video game or an action movie -- certainly more masculine (and remember, this ad is playing during NFL games). The idea that Apple products are "wimpy" or "effeminate" not uncommonly lurks behind less reasoned critiques. The Android phone will, apparently, be macho.
The next thing I realized was that, while I knew that this was an ad for Verizon's new Android 2.0 phone, I only knew that because I was a hopeless tech nerd who was already aware that such a thing was in the works. If you were coming into this totally cold, you'd probably be pretty puzzled by it, since Verizon is mentioned nowhere and "Android" is by no means a household name. Obviously this is a buzz-building ad, not meant to convey all the information the viewer will need, but it still has the capacity to baffle.
And what about the specific knocks on the iPhone in the ad's beginning? These are kind of a mishmosh. Some are things that are pretty easy for the average consumer to get -- "iDon't take five megapixel pictures," "iDon't have interchangeable batteries" -- while others will probably only make sense to the more tech savvy -- how many people really see "open development" as a selling point?