HTC has released its new television advertisements, which star actor Robert Downey Jr., and which are costing the embattled Taiwanese phone maker a reported $1 billion.
You can view the commercial below, and as you do, ask yourself: What's missing from this ad?
Okay, you watched it. Notice anything missing? In this commercial for a company that makes phones? Smartphones? Great smartphones?
Here's my argument: If you spend as much money and resources on building a fantastic phone like the HTC One, that has nerd tech reviewers drooling, with at least one proclaiming it the best smartphone that has ever been made -- well, why not use some of that stuff in your marketing materials?
The HTC One is gorgeous, and would look gorgeous spinning around against a black background, ala Apple's MacBook Retina or iPhone 5 ads.
The HTC One has some fantastic features -- the best speakers on a smartphone by a longshot, and the ability to control any television, and one of the crispest screens you can find -- that would be great to explain to uninitiated viewers watching primetime TV, as Samsung has with its feature-centric Galaxy S4 commercials.
And, when you are receiving raves from the occasionally finicky tech press, with pull quotes like "one of the best smartphones ever made" and "the closest thing the world has ever seen to a no-compromise smartphone" -- well, if you stacked up all those quotes, it might cause some shoppers to check out the One along with the GS4 and iPhone 5.
And yet, we got this, a silly attempt at a viral video, with a celebrity looking weird and doing weird things, in an apparent attempt to "raise brand awareness" and "appeal to millennials" (I would bet my entire salary that "raise brand awareness" and "appeal to millennials" were both part of the PowerPoint deck used to pitch this thing).
It's disappointing, as my friend Steve Kovach writes on Business Insider and on Twitter, because the HTC One is a legitimately excellent smartphone, one that, on merits alone, should have reached a much higher market share by now.
Now, there is an alternate argument, that any publicity is good publicity. That I am writing about an HTC commercial at all, rather than the latest Apple shenanigans or Samsung trickery, could be construed as a positive sign. At least HTC's ad got a rise out of me; the only thing worse than being talked about is being not talked about, as the old Irish novelist said.
But, really: Will weird acronyms propel HTC back into relevance? Is this part one of a longer series that will make the One, and not Downey Jr., the star? Time will tell. For now, though, we are left only with this Highly Troublesome Commercial.