Tech ad watch: Gary Oldman stares at you for HTC

Half-baked springs to mind when it comes to this ad

HTC does one thing well it designs excellent smartphones. It does not, however, do many of the things associated with designing excellent smartphones, like marketing, very well at all, which goes a long way towards explaining why the company's market share has sunk as low as it has.

The last time HTC made headlines with an ad, it was for this effort, which features Robert Downey, Jr. (and Jon Polito!) talking absolute nonsense in a bewildering attempt creating some kind of ironic hipster cred. Note to advertisers forced quirkiness is easy to spot and makes you look desperate.

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So HTC blew a reported $US1 billion on making us all watch Downey, Jr. act weird. Congratulations. At least this means the next big push in the wake of the HTC One M8's release will consist of something besides paying a big-name actor to sleepwalk through some sloppy concept ad...oh.

Sigh. Like much of the world, I adore Gary Oldman, which is why just having him sit there staring at the camera for the entire second half of the spot seems like kind of a waste. I used the word "half-baked" in the sub-head here, and I really can't think of a better description. It's like they came up with the idea while Oldman was already on his way and just texted him the script when he was driving to the set. Oldman walks in, delivers the lines, and then just sits there for almost 30 seconds, since the advertisers didn't have time to write the rest of the spot.

The idea is to whip up the power user crowd and appeal to their sense of being different than the herd. It's a better plan than the bogus hipsterism of the Downey ad at least they know their target market and the admittedly naked snob appeal is effective enough. "At HTC, they don't make phones for everyone," Oldman twinkles wisely at us, "just those who demand more. Who form their own opinions. People like you."

While I'm sure we all appreciate the vote of confidence, I think I speak for everyone when I say "this got awkward after about the fifth second of watching Oldman waiting patiently for us to go and look stuff up on the Internet." I get the point, and I'm sure somebody somewhere will call it a "bold" choice to have absolutely zilch happen for half of the spot, but it's still irritating. The power user crowd doesn't like having its time wasted.

Then again, given the fulsome praise heaped on the One M8 by early reviewers, maybe getting people to go online and read about it isn't such a dumb idea after all.

Email Jon Gold at and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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