Tech ads that... suck

Twitter's new moments campaign follows a tradition of uninspiring consumer-internet ads

Twitter has just released its first ad campaign to promote its new moments product. Twitter's followed on from a long-line of consumer-internet companies whose first attempt at brand advertising is not much more than an uninspiring, self-involved flop.

In 2012, Facebook launched Chairs, which featured a series of random photos of chairs, sentimental music and a voiceover compelling us that Facebook is like - chairs. "Chairs are for people and that’s why chairs are like Facebook." Deep.

Earlier this year, Airbnb launched Is Mankind? Another introspective piece that tried to encourage the kindness of man, but ended up simple creeping people out.

Why are their ads so far off-mark?

These ads are presumably aiming to drive brand awareness and product trail amongst non tech-savvy consumers. The blame for the navel-gazing, self-indulgent nature of the ads should rest squarely with the client who seemingly:

  • Assume people get and care about their mission statement as much as their management team, staff, VCs and fans

  • Aspire to be Apple and deliver the next 1984 ad, Airbnb and Twitter hired the same agency that produced Apple's famous ad

  • Default to being "flamboyantly creative" when approaching advertising to avoid appearing stale.

When they get it right

There are of course examples of many consumer-internet companies that have created advertising campaigns whose creativity and engagement matches that of their business.

In 2014, Google demonstrated it's Siri equivalent, by embedding context-relevant query suggestions around New York.

Microsoft aligned their Bing campaign with Jay-Z's Decoded autobiography launch. To launch the book and promote Bing, pages from the book were plastered in unexpected locations across the US. This set up an elaborate online/offline game where players found clues to the page's location on Various prizes were rewarded for the most successful players including two tickets to any of Jay-Z's concerts for life.

Intel's chips power the best computers in the world but the brand has little awareness. To highlight their selling proposition they created a film, The Beauty Inside. The story was about Alex, a guy who wakes up everyday as a different person and needs to communicate who he is to a love interest. Intel opened the casting for the lead to its fans on social and saw a flood of entries. Portions of the film got over 11 million views prior to launch and the final product won a number of prestigious film awards.

There are a few clear patterns in the tech companies who have hit the mark with their advertising. Funnily enough, their the same patterns as any successful ad. Successful advertising:

  • Has a unique selling proposition that is communicated clearly

  • Seamlessly interacts with its medium whilst pushing the medium's boundaries

  • Is contextually aware and taps into / pushes forward the cultural zeitgeist.