April 21, 2013Is this the worst ad ever?

sony ad

Is this the worst ad ever? Probably not. That honour most assuredly goes to horrors such as the awful DFS “Rockstar” ad — still cringeworthy five years later.

So no, this isn’t the worst ad ever. But it’s certainly in the running for the most banal ad, ever.

In fact, only one greater crime in recent memory springs to mind: Dow Chemical’s “Solutionism: The New Optimism”. What dick thought that was a good line? Whoever he was, he wasn’t a copywriter. Something something solution something. Because everybody loves solutions! Derp.

But at least there’s an excuse — it’s a B2B ad. You can be banal in B2B. Even though it’s often more rewarding to stand out from the crowd, “business-speak” is still the main way businesses do business.

But when you’re talking to the consumer, there’s no excuse for ads like this.

Let’s deconstruct the strapline:

“Experience the best of Sony in a smartphone.”

OK, so you’re starting with the word experience. What does that mean, exactly? “Experience”. Is a smartphone primarily an “experience” or is it a product? Perhaps the first time you use it, you’re blown away by the experience. I was pleasantly surprised when I switched from Apple to Android… I preferred the “experience”. But now I regard my Nexus 7 more as a trusty tool. I value the product’s features, not the experience.

I’ve looked at the specs of the Xperia Z and they’re good. A full HD screen, brilliant 13 megapixel camera… yet these don’t get mentioned at all.

There’s nothing more banal than a brand talking about “the experience”. It’s lazy. You should be talking about the product — ultimately, it’s the product that sells.

Actually, that’s not true. The only thing more banal than a brand talking about “the experience” is the brand talking about itself.

So what does the ad say next?

Experience… you guessed it… “The Best of Sony!”

Instead of talking about the product, the brand starts talking about itself.

OK, Sony, what does that actually mean?

“The best of Sony”

Does it mean the rest of your products are crap and this is the only one that’s any good?

No, that’s probably not what you mean. But it’s what you’re saying.

It’s easy to see how it happened. Somewhere a bunch of marketing dicks all sat round in a room, got a flipboard out, and said that “Our consumers really love us! The consumer research we did really says we can leverage our brand heritage! Look at the pie chart! Look at the powerpoint presentation! No, look at it, look at it!!”

And sometimes they’re right. Focusing on “the experience” can be a selling point. But only when you have the best experience, the best brand.

Don’t focus on “the experience” if it isn’t your USP

Sony aren’t a market leader any more — they’re playing a game of catch up behind everyone from Apple to Asus. You can’t leverage brand loyalty when people are no longer loyal to your brand. In this ad, Sony are proving they’re stuck in the past — harking back to a time when people bought Sony simply because it was regarded as ‘the best’ brand. If you’ve got a bigger screen, say it. If your camera’s better, shout it. And if you’ve got better battery life than the market leader, hammer that point home all the way. (in fact, being forced to Google the product’s features made me uncover the fact this device has a pitiful 6 hour battery life).

A lot of other big 90s brands make this mistake too, assuming the customer still loves them — when in actual fact their customer base has moved on.Your product lives and dies on its quality — not on your brand’s “loyal” customer base. Windows 8, anyone?

Sony is selling a device running Android — in other words, it isn’t “the best” and it isn’t a (unique) experience (it’s more or less the same as any other android device).

So why lead with ‘Experience the best of Sony in a Smartphone’?

The brand is talking about itself, in an arrogant, condescending way. It’s assuming you’ll believe that just because the brand has a heritage, you’ll buy into “the experience”.

Then they show you a giant stock photo of the phone. The phone that looks identical to every other mid-range smartphone on the market.

Do you want to buy it? Do you care? Where’s the USP? Where’s the appeal to the customer’s emotions? Where’s the appeal to their wallet?

Why buy this phone?

If the ad doesn’t give you a good reason to buy the product, it’s a bad ad.

This isn’t the worst ad I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the laziest.
  • It lazily talks about a hazy consumer “experience” without justifying what that is or means.
  • It lazily relies on a brand heritage that’s stuck in the past — Sony aren’t market leaders any more.
  • And it doesn’t bother giving you any reason to pick this one product out of the whole raft of Android phones on the market.

Every time you make a large media buy like this campaign without any kind of creative to support it, you are wasting your money.

This is lazy advertising at its very worst. It’s not bad. It’s just banal.

Oh, and it’s got a QR code on it.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, April 21st, 2013 at 11:21 pm and is filed under Advertising, Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.


  1. Hmm…have you ever had the misfortune to speak to Sony customer services? From my experience, I’d say the arrogant tone of this ad sums up Sony’s ego problem quite nicely.

    When I see the words ‘Sony’ and ‘Experience’ I just think of anger, frustration, and swearing! Anyone who bought an early PS3 or has tried to complain about PS3 store will know what I mean.

  2. I would imagine this is just about the most attention this advert has ever been given. Instantly forgettable with zero impact. As you quite rightly point out it is lazy writing, particularly when selling a smart phone should be easy – think of all the benefits you can tease out of the thing.

  3. Evo Bulgarevo says:

    Beautiful site, interesting articles. Very informative, thank you for having it.

    And your cut-the-bull attitude is awesome. I don’t often use this word ‘awesome’ (or hardly ever), but when I do I really mean it. Kindda like the XX commercial.

    The fist iPhone I had was the 4 in black (switched from a BB). Then I got the 5 in white, mostly ‘cuz everyone at work was still going with the black one.

    Anyway, to me it was experience all the way.

    I was never a fan of Apple, but I gotta give it to them.. they make pretty damn cool looking products. And the iPhone was very enjoyable, though I’d repeatedly tell people that the only reason I chose the iPhone (my company gave me a choice between several brands) was it’s physical look. At the time the iPhone 4 was still the coolest looking phone.

    But at the same time, I worked it into various social situations via humor mostly.. then when I got the white one the females would quickly take notice, which is in part why I got the white one to begin with.

    And to be completely honest, when I got the 4 I would consistently joke about my friend’s iPhone 3 telling him that it looked like a maxi pad that every 14 year old girl wants. Then he got the 4S, and so I got the 5 lol.

    Anyway, circumstances permitting.. it was mostly it’s physical look that worked for me.

    Regarding the actual functionality, the vast majority of the time I used it to fulfill the classic telephone requirements.

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