Samsung recently unveiled the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9+ at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year. The two smartphones created a lot of buzz in the smartphone market for features like variable aperture in the camera, AR Emoji, and facial recognition combined with an iris scanner. Of course, this buzz is not enough for the South Korean technology giant. With both phones coming to the market, the company is not going to leave a single stone unturned in order to make the product visible. So with the Academy Awards being presented, the company has released an Oscar-themed ad revolving around its new flagships (yes, the Oscars are a great time to release tech ads, remember Apple and the Hello ad for the first iPhone?).
A minute of pure advice
“Samsung Galaxy: Make it yours” is a 60-second ad where two young women, one with the Samsung Galaxy S9+ (we noticed the dual cameras!) and the other with a laptop, are sitting in a bedroom and discussing that they should make something. Of course, they do not know exactly what. And that is the cue for a group of celebrities jump in to help them with advice on just that.
Actress and director Issa Rae starts it off by saying, “Make something awkward” in reference to her web series, The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl. Director Taika Waititi then asks them to “Make something big”, but as our young ladies have a problem with the budget, he advises them to “Make something small”. Actress Constance Wuadvises them to “Make a new way” as she opens the door to an event, and then comes cinematographer, Rachel Morrison who simply says, “Make them respect you”. And these are just some of the more famous names in the ad. For about a minute, you see a number of faces, who are great artists in their fields, giving advice to the young girls, like, “Make something undeniably you, make something until you don’t”, often in reference to their own artwork.
The ad ends with “Do what you can’t” text on the screen followed by Samsung’s logo. Superbly produced (the switches between celebrities and different scenarios are super smooth), the ad is supported by an upbeat, lively background music.
Where them phones, but?
“Samsung Galaxy: Make it yours” is a flagship smartphone advertisement and it is as high-profile as it can get. The ad is a star-studded affair with multiple celebrities. Influencers, artists, and celebrities fill the ad, all giving these two young girls advice on what to create in a variety of circumstances (shooting videos, walking a dog, getting inked…). And while the concept of the ad may be good, we think having too many known (as well as unknown) faces on the screen, makes audience often forget the product which the ad is supposed to highlight in the first place.
We think that might have happened here. With great advice comes a good attention span, but that attention is often paid to the advice and not the product the advice is supposed to support. And when you have celebrities and influencers giving out words of wisdom, the chances of the product shining get slimmer. And this is where the ad slips up, in our opinion. While the celebrities and their tips did make us want to follow the ad, at the end of it all, we missed the devices about whom the ad actually was (even though the ad does not say S9 or S9 Plus at any moment). Yes, there were a lot of quotes there but then you ended up remembering the words and the faces more than the phones themselves – while the phones are visible in the hands of a number of people in the ad, the linkage between what they say and what the phones do is not always apparent.
Also, after all that inspirational, preach-y advice that these celebrities give during one minute, it was a little curious to see the two girls, who were the center of the whole advice circle, still as confused as they were at the start. Slightly more focused expressions at the end if not “Eureka” ones would have helped.
We also could not help but draw similarities between this ad and Apple’s iconic Think Different ad campaign. Both the ad campaigns share same slightly preach-y, inspirational tone, telling people to think different and to create different. There is a difference though – Apple’s ads were designed to reinforce the corporate philosophy of a company that was in trouble and referred to no single product. The “Make It Yours” campaign, however, is clearly about the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, and the advice somehow does not fit in that well here, simply as it is not always correlated with the product. Finally, while it is not criminal to get a little inspired from your competition, we advocate the “think different” ideology, even in the ad biz.
That said, we liked watching the ad. It is short and has great recall value to it but the recall value is attached to the advice given by the celebrities in the ad and not the product. And there lies the problem.
A little less advice, a little more S9, please!
Samsung’s “ Make it yours” is a good ad on many fronts – it has an inspirational factor attached to it, it is short and is bundled with a number of celebrities to keep the audience interested. But we think the ad fails to highlight the products it was made for, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. The same ad with some extra seconds of the two phones in the frame perhaps helping people do something the celebrities were advising, would have added a lot more value to the message that Samsung was trying to pass on. We would not be giving this one an Oscar.