My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Tech Ads of the Holiday Season

Apple's "Misunderstood' vs Samsung's "Are You Geared Up"



Tech companies roll out a lot of advertisements during the holidays, hoping to cash in some of our joyful year-end spending. A couple of ads really caught my attention this year. One was fabulous while the other was either the worst tech ad of the year or a very clever parody of a tech ad trying to be bad to get us to talk about how incredibly bad it was.


The Best

My favorite Christmas ad was Apple’s “Misunderstood’ video. It tells the story of a teenage boy, home for the holidays who produces a beautiful, heartwarming video for his family using his iPhone (and although unseen, presumably iMovie, iPhoto and Mac). Like most teenage boys, he is not skilled at expressing himself in person and worries that his family will mistake his silence for a lack of care. To communicate his true feelings, he quickly dedicates himself to expressing his love through a heartwarming video.

The commercial is gorgeously filmed, set on a snowy Christmas day and accompanied by a piano playing “Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas” and “I’ll be home for Christmas”.

What’s so powerful about the ad is that it doesn’t hit us over the head with a slew of “iFeatures” but rather tells us a simple story, showing us what can be produced with Apple’s products.  

More importantly, the video shows us the value of what the boy could produce when his family watches and is brought to tears at the end. The gift wasn’t a shiny expensive new iPhone but rather the happiness he captured and memorialized for his family to share. Who wouldn’t want to bring such joy their family during the holidays?

The video is also cleverly a video within a video with the boy’s production shown at the end.  The full version is available separately on Apple’s site helping them to build a larger holiday campaign around the concept.

The video has also spurred a lot of debate about whether we, and more specifically teenagers, are too absorbed with technology rather than being engaged in the activities happening all around us.   Jennifer Rooney over at Forbes wrote “I found it depressing, upsetting, and a sad commentary on our social-, video- and image-obsessed culture.” She even went as far as to propose that Apple make a commercial that says “put down the iPhone this holiday season and actually look at, talk with, be with your family and friends.” Some have speculated that Apple's video was a actually a response to this video that shows a day in the life of woman where everyone around her is preoccupied with their mobile devices.

While I agree with Rooney, that most of us now spend to much time staring at our iDevices rather than focusing on the life that’s happening at that moment in time, I think she missed the point of the commercial and agree more with Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s post on Huffington. Let’s remember that the boy was using his phone as a camera and that taking pictures and recording holiday events is something that families have been doing for decades.

Let’s also remember that this is an Apple advertisement. You can’t really expect Apple to tell us not to use their products.


The Worst

The most horendous video of the year was “Are You Geared Up”,  produced by Samsung to promote the Galaxy Note 3, “and Gear”.

It depicts a really creepy guy named “Jag”, who stalks a pretty girl with his watch phone while another guy who is supposed to be the loser fails to get the girl using his clumsy old smart phone – really?


What’s even worse is that the video actually details how useless most of the features of the watch are. Who would try to take pictures with their watch while skiing, or try to control the music playing on their phone sitting two feet away? For that matter who takes their phone out of their pocket and leaves it teetering on a railing above a snow bluff?  

The story is bad, the production quality is bad, the value message is bad and of course that leads us to believe the product is bad as well.

Greg Kumparak at Techcrunch put it well when he said that "Samsung gave everyone a big ol’ box of cringe" for Christmas.

I am guessing that Samsung was trying for funny with the ad. But either way, they've really upped the degree of difficulty for the writers over at SNL. I just can't wait to see them create a parody of a video that's a parody of a tech ad.

What do you think? Which videos stood out for you this holiday season?

Richard Dumas

I have led marketing and product management initiatives for leading technology, media and software companies including Nuance Communications, Sun Micro, Apple Computer and DNN Corp. I received an M.B.A. from M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management and a B.A. in Cognitive Science from Wesleyan University. I am currently the Director of Product and Solution Marketing at Five9, the leading provider of cloud contact center software .