• 03.25.14

Forget Feature-Bragging, New HTC Campaign Just Says “Ask the Internet”

The brand wants to rise above the feature fray and makes a major marketing bet on its web reputation. HTC’s vice president of marketing Erin McGee talks about the new strategy.

Forget Feature-Bragging, New HTC Campaign Just Says “Ask the Internet”
[Videos courtesy of HTC]


With the efforts of Samsung over the past few years, the smartphone marketplace in North America is essentially a two-horse race. The marketing machines of Apple and Samsung are in near constant motion, blanketing media of all stripes with ads (and ad-like things) aiming to convince us which is better. But where does that leave a well-reviewed challenger brand looking to breakthrough?

For HTC, there were a few choices. One was to try and go head to head with the others, maybe with a quirky but ultimately confusing big budget spot featuring an international blockbuster movie star. But that approach didn’t quite work before. So instead, after dropping its agency Ogilvy to return to Deutsch LA for its North American work, the brand put the focus on what other people were saying with a new campaign called Ask the Internet.

“The truth is we make the best smartphone in the world–we’ve got the most awards by the likes of Engadget, GSMA, bloggers, and reviewers–so we’ve nailed the product thing, but our challenge is getting consumers to care about that,” says HTC’s vice president of marketing Erin McGee. “There is a lot of white noise hitting consumers about bigger displays, better cameras, sleeker designs–in order to rise above we can’t act like everyone else. We make products for people who are a bit more discerning, those that demand the best and those that can make up their own mind. So that’s our pitch.”

HTC One “Brand Ethos”

The campaign kicks off with a set of understated ads starring Gary Oldman, in which the Oscar-nominated actor says, “Blah blah blah blah blah… It doesn’t matter what I say because the new HTC One is designed for people who form their own opinions.”

Deutsch LA CEO Mike Sheldon says that when HTC explained the product and how well it does with tech writers the idea became obvious. “The creative approach was simple, get out of the way of this amazing product,” says Sheldon. “We wanted to treat the consumer with the intelligence they deserve. If they’re in the market for a smartphone, they’ll go online to see which one’s best. This is just a reminder and a way to assure ourselves we’re on the list.”

McGee says the two big brands spend enough time arguing about their individual product features that it would be silly to try and take the same approach. “Look at Samsung’s latest ad where they take knocks at all of their competitors, which is great to see, but with them doing that it becomes a bit of a feature war,” says McGee. “It’s no secret Samsung and Apple spend a lot of money on marketing, and we’ve focused on making the best product and this is using that reputation to market it. Because we do get such rave reviews and people do a lot of research, we’re confident in what they’ll find.”

Read more about the new HTC phone here.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.