Fast Company

What's Wrong With This Palm Ad?

Below, you'll find the latest television ad for the Palm Pre. It's simply shot, backed by soothing music, and consistent with Palm's other Beijing-opening-ceremony style ad from June. It's also bizarrely, pervasively creepy. What's going on here?

(For reference, here is the first ad in the series, released in early June.)

There are a few obvious grievances: we don't know this woman, so when she talks at us in a one-on-one encounter through our TV, it's a little like being accosted by the too-social crazy lady in the waiting room at the dentist. For another, we approach her from the back, which makes it feel as if we're somehow sneaking up on her and invading her privacy. It doesn't help that she appears to be either a) naked at first glance or b) wearing a nightgown.

Then there's the actual message, something that probably has the ears of many a smartphone user steaming: this lady is telling us that her definition of a "good day" is when everything just works. Well, shouldn't we expect at least that much from our nerd arsenal? For $200 and a two-year shackling, I don't want "just works," and I don't want the luck of the green lights. I want "changes the way I work." I want all the amazing productive things that we've come to expect from iPhones and Blackberrys, which "just work" every day. That's not to say that the Palm Pre is an inferior device, but if "just working" is its biggest advantage, it's not outplaying the competition.

Perhaps the most unnerving thing about this ad is the feeling it tries to achieve: soft lighting, soft music, a halcyon few minutes spent with a Pre. That kind of visual pharmaceutical is what we came to expect from Microsoft's advertising people a few years ago, when they were trying to dope us into believing that Vista worked. Palm: we won't be fooled again. (One such Microsoft ad, below.)

Related Stories:
Ten Days In, How's the Palm Pre Doing? Not Too Badly
Palm Pre vs iPhone 3.0: A Feature-by-Feature Comparison
Top 5 Palm Pre Hacks

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23 Comments

  • Trevor Colom

    Many people have grievances towards this ad saying that she’s too comforting and “invades your personal space”. Yet, I think they have it all wrong. You look at the connected woman who is juggling about 20,000 responsibilities and racking her professional/personal life at the same time (something we men still can’t comprehend). Her intimacy and personal connection show’s ease of use, relaxation, and uniformity of applications. Obviously, this isn’t intended to focus on the male consumer. CHRIS DANNEN my friend, you just don’t get consumer wants and needs do you?

  • Trevor Colom

    Many people have grievances towards this ad saying that she’s too comforting and “invades your personal space”. Yet, I think they have it all wrong. You look at the connected woman who is juggling about 20,000 responsibilities and racking her professional/personal life at the same time (something we men still can’t comprehend). Her intimacy and personal connection show’s ease of use, relaxation, and uniformity of applications. Obviously, this isn’t intended to focus on the male consumer. CHRIS DANNEN my friend, you just don’t get consumer wants and needs do you?

  • Trevor Colom

    Many people have grievances towards this ad saying that she’s too comforting and “invades your personal space”. Yet, I think they have it all wrong. You look at the connected woman who is juggling about 20,000 responsibilities and racking her professional/personal life at the same time (something we men still can’t comprehend). Her intimacy and personal connection show’s ease of use, relaxation, and uniformity of applications. Obviously, this isn’t intended to focus on the male consumer. CHRIS DANNEN my friend, you just don’t get consumer wants and needs do you?

  • sadiq sikandar

    We all have potential to be a devil's advocate and worst critics and I find that's the message from this article. The ads seem to be okay in all respects and go on to appeal to a certain extent.

  • Richard Riddle

    I like the "just works" approach. Life is busy and crazy and constantly moving. And everyone wants me to sign a two-year contract - I'm resigned to this already. These peaceful, serene ads kind of make me want to take a stroll or a nap - two things I wouldn't mind doing on my busier days. Also, I know it's an ad - I don't feel I'm being creepy or "invading her privacy." It's an AD for goodness sake, not a voyeuristic YouTube clip from a stalker.

  • Steven Banks

    I think what makes this spot "pervasively creepy," is the plain fact that she looks like Macaulay Culkin.

  • Diane Hessan

    To me, it's the right ad at the wrong time. We already KNOW we need a PDA and we already KNOW how they make life easier. Just tell us how the Pre is different and better! If they are planning on doing that during this series, I think they are giving their audience too much credit for sticking with the story.

  • Rupa Chaturvedi

    @ Greg that was funny.
    @ Chris I think you are being too harsh on Palm/the ad. How many companies actually understand and acknowledge that consumer lifestyles are actually very connected and CEs should enable seamless integration. I like the messaging in the Flow Ad - well done.

  • Gen Hendrey

    I don't think this ad is "bizarrely, pervasively creepy" or anything close to that. I do find the ad annoying for being yet another example of women being either unclothed, or made to look nude, in order to sell almost anything. (C'mon, it's a freakin' phone, and the only way it'll screw you is by dropping the signal.). But there's nothing bizarre about it, per se, since that's how advertising works left and right. Now, a phone ad with a beautiful, young, shirtless, husky-voiced man? That would be both bizarre and way more interesting to me, personally.

    Your point about the Pre "just working" was funny, even if as other readers pointed out, you may have misinterpreted that. It reminds me of those Toyota ads that were in heavy rotation a few years back, "for every time the wipers wipe; for every time the brakes stop the car; for every time the headlights illuminate your way... Can a car really be that reliable?" Uh, it had better be or you're going to have a heck of a class action on your hands!

  • Chris Dannen

    @Stephanie, I'm glad someone shares my sentiments. This ad isn't really about the phone (@Dustin, @Alberto), which is part of what makes it so strange. The Pre has its advantages and disadvantages; this woman and her new-age monotone are definitely the latter.

  • Gen Hendrey

    I don't think this ad is "bizarrely, pervasively creepy" or anything close to that. I do find the ad annoying for being yet another example of women being either unclothed, or made to look nude, in order to sell almost anything. (C'mon, it's a freakin' phone, and the only way it'll screw you is by dropping the signal.). But there's nothing bizarre about it, per se, since that's how advertising works left and right. Now, a phone ad with a beautiful, young, shirtless, husky-voiced man? That would be both bizarre and way more interesting to me, personally.

    Your point about the Pre "just working" was funny, even if as other readers pointed out, you may have misinterpreted that. It reminds me of those Toyota ads that were in heavy rotation a few years back, "for every time the wipers wipe; for every time the brakes stop the car; for every time the headlights illuminate your way... Can a car really be that reliable?" Uh, it had better be or you're going to have a heck of a class action on your hands!

  • Stephanie Burns

    Chris- I agree wholeheartedly with this entire article. This ad has creeped me out from the very beginning. It doesn't envoke the power of a Renaissance portrait, or the simplicity, etc., etc. She doesn't tell me anything about the product, she talks about juggling. WHAT?!? I just stare at this creepy lady talking quiet and monotone at me for 30 seconds and just can't wait until it's over.

  • Dave Symons

    The Palm ad does not seem bizarre in anyway to me. I think it speaks directly to the people that want simplicity and versatility in their cell phone. How many people are frustrated with their "smartphone"? I like my blackberry but constantly have very frustrating problems with it.

    Now the Microsoft add on the other hand really rings of "The Matrix" movie with its sound track and the lines falling down the screen (rather than characters). It also blends a little 1984 into it. Watch it again not listening to the words and you'll see what I mean.... now that is a little bizarre and maybe a little odd that you included it here?

  • Paul Gorman

    Not creepy, exactly, but odd. The tempo of both the music and her speech are off. Her demeanor seems slightly drugged. There's also the fact that the viewer no reference for the location. Where is she--on a golf course? The horizon line is very low and the clouds move smoothly and quickly, which creates an odd tension with the slow, syncopated music and speech pattern.

  • Travis Scoggins

    I can't believe they are tee-ing themselves up like this for Apple to attack by putting a new spin on their famous campaign..."Hi I'm an iPhone. Hi, I'm a Pre".

  • Geoff Schaadt

    I'm going to join the crowd and pile-on Chris - I have no complaints with this ad.

    You really believe the iPhone and Blackberry "just work"? Do you mean the continuous browser crashes or the complete lack of a useful browser experience?

    If the Pre "just works" the way my TV, washing machine, furnace, and car "just work", then sign me up for a three year contract.

  • David Burck

    The only creepiness is the referenced "bing, bing", which throws my focus off the ad while I guess at a MS connection for the Pre search engine. Actually, the photo setting references a Renaissance portrait, which I take as a subtle play on power, simplicity, knowledge and beauty. I think it';s a clever ad. The 360 turns also imply it is a device at the center of our increasingly 24/7 total exposure lives.

  • Alberto Cohen

    There's nothing wrong with the ad. Perhaps you're just taking into account your own needs (or wishes). For many people I know, getting a device that just works from the minute you turn it on (computer, phone or dvd player) is a bonus in itself. In the world of design, the goal of "less is more" (and similar variations) is very difficult to achieve. And remember, Palm was very much criticized when it changed to Windows Mobile and away from Palm OS; like going from Apple to Windows.

  • Richard Lagani

    All I can say is WOW! It's as if we were watching different ads.

    There is nothing even remotely "bizarrely, pervasively creepy" about this ad. Furthermore, it is a seris of ads and you do in fact know this woman from the first "Poppy Flower" ad. She doesn't say "just works" as you put it, she is talking about a day where everything "seems to work" as if you are one with the universe. These are the days that are almost transendental in nature. I don't know about you, but with today's hectic corporate pace, I relish days where everything seems to be in sync.