Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Common Pitfalls of Technology Advertising

I am pretty much appalled at the state of technology advertising. Telcos, hardware companies and software companies have some of the dullest, most confusing, most obscure messaging in the world. The same mistakes are made over and over. I have to wonder where the disconnect is. Is it that advertising firms just don't get technology? Perhaps technology people don't know how to talk to other human beings. The biggest problems happen when technology companies try to market to consumers. Here are a few of my favorite pitfalls of technology advertising.
  1. The “We Suck Less” Approach. A prime example of this is the Cingular ads that talk about fewer dropped calls. First off, why mention the fact that you drop any calls at all? It's not something people tend to focus on. According to Cingular, this happens all the time while sitting in your living room. I'm glad they pointed that out. Before they mentioned it, I always thought it had to do with me driving through different cell zones at 60 miles an hour. Now I know it's the cell phone companies' fault. Thanks for clearing that up. Of course they may drop less calls because they connect less calls in the first place. Don't think we haven't thought of that.

  2. The “Let Me Get The Manual” Problem. Also known as the “What the heck are you talking about” problem. This one is endemic to PC makers. They spew all kinds of techie jargon at people who can't possible know what it means. Consumers want to know what they can do with the stupid thing not what's its configuration is. The good news is that you see much less of this these days. The bad news is that you still see this today.

  3. The “Price of Tea in China” Issue. A great example of this is the Intel Duo Core processor ads that litter the Internet. I don't mean on technology sites where IT people and engineers go, I mean on Atom Films or Adult Swim (which is part of the Cartoon Network, not a porn site). These are video sites that normal people go to. Do you really think they give a hoot about the processor in their desktop computer? They politely watch the ad so they can get on with watching clips of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I'm sure some ad agency is spouting some garbage back to Intel about number of viewings, name recognition, and extrapolating that to processors sold. The problem is, except for the hardcore techie and gamer types, no one cares even a little bit. Even the hardcore folks don't care very much.

  4. The “Beating a Dead Horse” Syndrome. Okay all advertisers do this. They keep the same thing going far too long. Like the Budweiser frogs. Funny at first but annoying at the end. Or the Geico cavemen. Hello Geico. It's jumped the shark! Tech companies are not immune to this either. Take the Apple “PC vs. Mac” ads with the dull, nerdy guy representing the PC and the hip, young guy as a Mac. We get it. Macs are cool, PCs are for boring nerds. Or perhaps for people who don't want to pay too much for a computer. Whatever. But the commercials are decidedly dull now. Much more so than the PC guy.

  5. The “Huh?” Factor. We all know that technology can be hard to describe in a 30 second ad, right? So let's not describe it all! A great example of this approach is the Microsoft Vista ads. They show people doing mundane things like jogging or watching television, all the while muttering “Wow”. What the heck is that suppose to mean? There's a guy staring at a deer in a suburban street. What's that about? At least they show you the product at the end. The connection from the imagery to the product escapes me. An earlier ad for Vista didn't show the product at all. It had people walking around and vogueing. At least the text shown on the screen said what the major improvements in Vista were. I guess Microsoft assumes they can't appeal to our intelligence and have to go for the emotional. Funny thing is that no one is going to buy Vista because they heard it was “Wow”. They are going to buy it because it's bundled with their new PC. From “Huh?” to “Duh!”

  6. The “Dry as an Old Bone” Problem. Pickup any technology magazine and you will know exactly what I mean. Really dull ads that do little more than show a commodity product and some silly background image. Hackneyed, boring, and not worth the ink to print it. Not only don't these ads get someone to buy, they don't even get them to look.

This is not to say that all technology or communications advertising is bad. I especially like the T-Mobile commercial for their MyFaves features. This ad has two teens, a boy and a girl, sitting at the dinner table talking about who is in the MyFaves circle. The girls lists all of her closest friends. The boy does the same – all of her closest friends. She is clearly upset about this. It's funny and clearly shows not only the MyFaves feature but why it is attractive to it's target audience. More technology advertising should be like this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome post. I really enjoyed it! I think a lot of companies take the easy way out with advertising, and then wonder why they're not seeing sales improve.

I linked to this post from my blog - check it out if you'd like!