Although it doesn’t come close to the excesses of the automotive and beauty industries, the mobile phone sector has generated more than its fair share of emetic adverts. We name and shame the worst.
10 Siri/iPhone 4S
Things might change when iOS 6 arrives. But when the Siri ads starring Samuel L Jackson and Zooey Deschanel aired, the so-called voice activated personal assistant was a dog’s dinner of an app. One which reportedly embarrassed Apple staffers with its limited functionality and had trouble understanding even simple requests.
You wouldn’t know that from the woefully disingenuous ads, though. Ads where Siri interacts with our starry pair with the kind of A.I and can-do personality to put KITT to shame. And not once has any trouble comprehending Samuel L Jackson’s street vernacular or La Deschanel's kooky phrasing.
Alas, we knew only too well how far that was from the truth. Much criticised for over-selling Siri, the ads, which marked the first time that Apple employed Hollywood stars to tout their products, feel like nothing but a pretty cheap attempt to use celebrity as a smokescreen for the app’s shortcomings.
9 Pulse One Cellphone
In the 1980s, trips to the cinema in Britain were enlivened by ads for local businesses. They’d typically feature static shots of curry houses, wobbly camerawork, wobblier soundtracks and ‘genuine’ customer testimonies from unconvincing am-dram types. And any mood-improving comedic potential they might've had was negated by the spirit-crumpling way they confirmed just how limited were the leisure options in the tawdry newtown you called home.
This ad for the Pulse One carphone, which aired in the US and features those familiar static shots, threadbare production values and hammy acting, is cut from the same cloth.
Extra points are awarded by our bad-ads panel for the way the waitress in the clip wearily gestures at the two businessmen at the table while revealing that part of the reason she got a carphone is that she feels safer when travelling home late at night.
Fending off the attentions of sex pests from company sales departments was just part of a waitress's job in the 1980s, of that we’re sure. But it’s the ‘tsk, boys will be boys’ attitude she has to them in the face of their grabby party-hands that leaves your belief truly beggared.
8 Samsung Galaxy Note and Galaxy S2 iSheep ads
Although aired pretty much exclusively in the US, these spots for the Galaxy Note got picked up by tech blogs worldwide after they took a series of potshots at Apple. Or rather the pretentions of the kind of iPhone owners who describe themselves as creatives but actually work as baristas.
We’ll concede that some of the barbs hit their target. But it still feels a bit cheap of Samsung to use its ads to mock a competitor's customers so vituperatively. It’s a dirty tactic more in keeping with tawdry election campaigns and just makes Samsung look cheap.
7 Tom Baker BT Cellnet ad
Wherein the best Doctor Who bar none dons the long scarf, tweedy threads and natty titfer that he wears in the role to hawk bricklike phones to us Brits.
What makes this one so wrong? It’s not the fact that this pairing is a bad fit for BT that makes the ad rotten. After all, even in this day and age we can well imagine our fusty, bloody-minded Gallifrean shunning a touchscreen phone in favour of the brick handset in the ad. Rather, it’s just the depressing fact that a venerable thesp like Baker accepted the advertising shilling at all.
6 Sony Xperia Play
Debuting during the 2011 Super Bowl, this ad took cues from torture-fetishising likes of Saw and featured Google’s Android mascot getting backstreet surgery in what looks like downtown Bangkok.
The reason? He wants opposable thumbs so he can play games on the handset previously and more than a little over-optimistically referred to as the PlayStation Phone.
The ad fails because it's actually kind of repulsive to watch. And once again there’s no sign of the product at all. Although given how badly the concept of the Play was realised, what with its shoddy build quality and lame gamepad, we’re not surprised.
5 FaceTime iPhone 4 ads
Famous for featuring the honkingly obvious truism that ‘if you don't have an iPhone, you don’t have an iPhone’, these ads also touted how easy it was to make video calls using FaceTime.
What it didn’t make terribly apparent was that you needed a Wi-Fi connection to do so and that using 3G was a no-no, meaning that calls were only possible within fairly narrow parameters. That feels more than a little dishonest.
4 Nokia Lumia 800
Full marks for Nokia’s choice of Greco Roman’s label’s Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs to soundtrack this ad. But with shots of wacky office types rowing their way across their workplace and incongruous shots of young ‘uns getting their dance on while doing the ironing, this ends up feeling like a cringey attempt to be down with the kids. It’s what the squarest marketing man imagines 'cool' looks like.
Worse, though, is that the Lumia 800 doesn’t show its face until the last 20 seconds of the minute and a half ad, which feels like Nokia has got something to hide. Say what you like about Apple, but at least they’ve got confidence enough in their product to feature it prominently in their spots.
3 iPhone 3GS ads
That Apple’s genius is as much for marketing as it is for product development is one of axioms of the modern world. But its TV spot wherein it seemed like downloading and installing apps took mere microseconds and loading web pages was even quicker really over-egged the pudding.
After a rash of complaints, Apple was forced to re-cut the ad with a caveat noting that 'sequences have been shortened' - a warning that's featured in pretty much every House of Cupertino clip ever since.
2 HTC Evo 4G
Exclusive to the US, this spot for HTC’s handset wasn’t shy about trumpeting its status as the first 4G phone.
The ad sticks in the craw for us mostly because of the allusions to genuinely awe-inspiring breakthroughs, such as the Apollo missions and the first locomotive.Those are the kind of landmarks that edify us and alter our perceptions of just what humanity is capable of. And for all that 4G capable phones are welcome, we're not convinced it meets that brief.
Especially since most Evo 4G phone owners will just use their super-fast phone to watch the same moronic PWNED clips on YouTube and post the same humblebrags on Twitter as they did on 3G. They'll just do it faster.
1 Microsoft Kin
The Redmond-based software giant’s attempt at social networking-focussed smarties died a death within weeks of going on sale. This clip in which a hipster youth appeared to send a sexy photo text/sext to his best girl didn’t help.
It takes a lot more than what we’re guessing was a lame attempt to garner a patina of controversy to make Microsoft seem cool. As borne out when it was revealed that said ads failed to help the phones' fortunes to the extent that just 500 were sold.