It's never easy to talk about revolution in tech advertising. But this seems like a pretty basic rule of thumb: Focus on how amazing your innovations are today, not on how pedestrian they will look tomorrow.
Amazon's new Kindle campaign ignores this rule, to its peril. The campaign from Wong, Doody, Crandall, Wiener desperately wants to be iPad-like, with its ruminating voiceovers about the invisibility of the most elegant tech products. But the writing, particularly in the minute-long anthem spot, gets it backwards. Instead of celebrating the leap forward, Amazon explores the reaction to it—the process by which shiny and new eventually and inevitably comes to seem dull and boring.
Here's the full voiceover text from the anthem spot: "We're the people with the smile on the box. We're the re-inventors of normal. We dream of making things that change your life, then disappear into your everyday—of making the revolutionary routine. Our accomplishments are things you barely think about, but can't imagine not having. Connecting your mouse to your front door was our moon landing. Creating Kindle, our four-minute mile. Customer reviews, our lightbulb. And when we build you something new, you can expect everything to change a little more. Look around. What once seemed wildly impractical is now completely normal. And 'normal' just begs to be messed with."
The spot is so overwritten, it would take a while to pinpoint all the problems. Here are a few basic ones: Why admit to "making the revolutionary routine"? Of making products that "disappear," and that you "barely think about"? The language is diminishing in every day. (Yes, Amazon wants to be seen as reliable more than sexy, but this borders on retrograde.) Even the analogies to history's great achievements make Amazon seem small by comparison. Toward the end, we get a few forward-looking sentences, but they merely promise the viewer that everything will "change a little more." It's hard to think of a more ambivalent description of cultural advancement. The last line tries to save the spot, but it's too late—plus, it's at odds with everything that came before. (The interchangeable lifestyle-y imagery doesn't help matters, either.)
Jeff Bezos wants you to compare the new $499 Kindle Fire directly with the iPad. So, let's look at how Amazon's marketing language—about revolution and invisibility in tech—compares to Apple's. Here's the voiceover from the first iPad 2 commercial last year: "This is what we believe. Technology alone is not enough. Faster, thinner, lighter—those are all good things. But when technology gets out of the way, everything becomes more delightful, even magical. That's when you leap forward."
Amazon, meanwhile, has taken a step back.
Note: The agency on the ads is not known. Eyeball in New York, which has done a number of Kindle spots, said it was "not at liberty to discuss our work with Amazon."
Agency: Wong, Doody, Crandall, Wiener