Over the weekend, Samsung began airing a series of spots about the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, mostly as an introduction to the product. There was a simple spot with a series of futuristic wrist-based gadgets, presented solo, and a ‘supercut’ spot which combined shots of those gadgets in use from classic science fiction TV and movies.
The spot is very effective, some are calling it Samsung’s best commercial ever, which I think could very well be true. The clips are well chosen, with a good mix of cartoons and live action offerings. There’s Knight Rider’s Michael Knight, speaking to his talking car; Captain Kirk using a rare wrist-mounted version of the traditional ‘communicator’; the oft-referenced Dick Tracy and his two-way radio.
When I saw the spot for the first time last night during the ‘Niners game I immediately saw a resemblance to Apple’s ‘Hello’ spot introducing the iPhone. That spot was originally aired during the Oscars in 2007 and also featured a supercut of old movies, with a series of people saying “hello” into phones of the time.
I was sitting waiting for a takeout pizza and saw the spot. My mind jumped right to the ‘Hello’ spot because there was too many similarities to ignore. That assessment wasn’t based off of careful consideration or analysis. Just a general impression. But that’s often the way advertising works best, by giving a ‘general impression’ of something.
After thinking about it for a bit, it seems clear that the Samsung spot had to have been ‘inspired’ at some point by the ‘Hello’ spot. The marketing firm in charge of this spot was 72andSunny. It seems highly likely that they would have used the ‘Hello’ spot as a part of their pitch to the Samsung executives in charge of the Gear launch.
But, news flash, this is exactly how ad agencies work. They often use established works to create an impression for their clients, and then the ads are built off of those impressions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Samsung taking inspiration from the ‘Hello’ spot. However—and this is an important note — Samsung is a company which has had a billion-dollar judgement against it for copying Apple’s work.
If I was a company which had gained a reputation for copying Apple’s work, the last thing I’d want is to have my advertising associated with anything they’d ever done.
Examining the Samsung spot closer, there are a number of differences in execution between it and the ‘Hello’ spot. Yes, they’re both supercuts and yes, they both use old movies to make their point. But the Galaxy Gear spot shows objects from the future, not the past, and positions the Gear product as something bringing those future things to the now, not replacing the devices of the past.
In what is a moment of incredible irony, the clips that Samsung chose for its spot actually make the Gear look pretty terrible in comparison. The gadgets in those clips and movies did amazing, wonderful things like communicating across vast areas of space and analyzing the environment. Only a few of them were actually ‘phones’ — which is how Samsung pitches the Gear.
With the ‘Hello’ spot, Apple showed phones. Simple phones. Used for over 100 years to do roughly the same thing…say ‘hello’. And then the iPhone at the end, a device that was a phone, but also offered a lot more in an attractive package. Note that I’m not saying smartphones hadn’t been around, I’m just talking about how the spot presented it. Apple was saying that those were the ‘old way’ and this was the ‘new way’. And it was right. All smartphones now look basically like the image that Apple presented at the end of that spot
The spot is very effective, and I think that it will do very well with the public. It might even be a contender for a Cannes Lions award when that rolls around — and I doubt that being ‘inspired’ by Apple will hurt those chances. It’s too bad the product that it’s advertising is so very bad, by most accounts, but it wouldn’t be the first time that an ad was better than a product.
It seems clear that the ‘Hello’ spot was an inspiration for Samsung’s Galaxy Gear spot, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t executed well or won’t be effective. It also doesn’t mean that it was a ‘copy’, because it’s not. But it does demonstrate a distinct difference in thinking between Samsung and Apple, both of whom exercise enormous control over their advertising.
This article has been updated to note that 72andSunny, not Cheil, was the ad agency behind the Gear spot.