Antiquities: Technique in TV Advertising

    The reason for this post was an unexpected find: on one of the old video tapes I found an advertisement for Windows 2000 on Russian TV. I can’t say that advertising once played a serious role in choosing new or vintage devices: articles in specialized publications and reviews on forums were much more important. But the old videos are now of interest: they show what device options the manufacturer chose to convey to the widest possible audience.

    This post is an attempt to complement the impressions of old iron with relevant commercials, so the search criteria roughly correspond to the list of devices in my collection: audio cassettes and minidiscs , IBM Thinkpad laptops ,handheld computers and smartphones of the beginning of the two thousandth.

    I keep a diary of a collector of old pieces of iron in real time in a Telegram .

    But I want to start not with advertising, but with the full-fledged presentation of Steve Jobs in 2007, at which the very first Apple iPhone was presented:


    If the presentation was not conducted by Steve Jobs, but by some technical specialist, most likely the technical characteristics would be given priority. For example: “We used a surface-capacitive touch screen, and developed a new interface that allows us to do without a stylus when controlling the device. In addition, we created and implemented ... a compact headphone amplifier with a high-quality DAC and low power consumption ... ”And so on. But the main points of the presentation were not at all. Moreover, much later, we learned that an incredibly crude prototype was shown on the stage, about which it was not entirely clear whether he could survive a relatively simple demonstration of capabilities.

    Instead of technical characteristics (which were obviously inferior to analogues from the then market leaders) two things were said. iPhone is a touchscreen widescreen music player, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough Internet device. Three in one. Just in case, Steve repeated this mantra several times to make it clear.


    Further, the founder of Apple went over the “smart” devices existing at that time, choosing keyboard communicators as a target: “These devices are not very smart and not very convenient to use.” The keyboard in such devices is always present, taking the place of the screen. Let’s get rid of her! No, a stylus is not needed either! “We are five years ahead of any device on the market.”


    The response to such statements was quick and sharp. Why is there no 3G? Where is the camera? But what about memory cards? Why are there no applications (and they were not there until the middle of next year, 2008)? I myself perceive devices with a physical keyboard with nostalgia, but today I want to talk not about that. The main thing is that these statements have been made. Apple could not beat its competitors in terms of performance, and instead came up with a new way to interact with a mobile device. In a situation where both users and participants in the mobile phone market are quite skeptical about the newcomer, it was necessary to go on stage and talk not about specifications, but about a new way to interact with the device. 12 years later, we know that this approach worked.


    Many try to copy Apple's approach to presentations, but not everyone succeeds, and very often it is more about technical specifications, rather than solving consumer problems. Not always new devices solve these problems, and sometimes add new ones. But at the presentation, you have an hour of time to talk about what you consider important. In the commercial you have 30 seconds, at best a minute, and you need to prioritize. Early advertising of iPhones tries to draw attention to the very fact of the appearance of a smartphone at Apple, and shows its advantages: the gestures we knew well were then new and could themselves sell a phone that could do it like that.

    Wait, why 30 seconds? At what point did our life accelerate so much that only a few technology fans can spend a couple of hours studying new products to make the right choice? This was not always the case, and the difference is especially noticeable when you try to watch promotional videos from the fifties and sixties.


    This was not only in the video. Magazine advertising was close to technical guidance by modern standards. Car ads talked about piston materials and the number of gears in a gearbox. In an advertisement for RCA Victor audio cartridges (the format that preceded the compact cassette and is now forgotten), they show how tracks with sound are placed on a tape, talk about cheaper media, and report on the speed of the tape. Amazing Here is an example of a shorter advertisement, but executed with the same attention to detail:


    By the eighties, with the advent of the MTV generation, the flow rate of information accelerated sharply. Emotions replaced the facts.


    In a well-known advertisement for Maxell audio cassettes, they still report technical advantages (500 reproductions without loss of quality). In the nineties Sony's mini-disc advertising, emotions overshadow everything else.


    Looks like an ad for the first iPod of 2001. But still there is an element of demonstrating the possibilities: I collected music on a computer, copied it and took it with me.


    A good example of Russian advertising from the 90s on the same topic is CD advertising as a format. As you understand, such advantages of digital sound as the extended dynamic range are not described here:


    The next stop is IBM laptops. I have a lot of them, and to create a complete picture it is interesting to see how these expensive devices advertised in the nineties. But first, an advertisement for personal IBM computers of the 80s, using the image of Charlie Chaplin and telling about new horizons of productivity, which give the "personal". We can say that it was so:


    ThinkPad - a better place to think. This is not really TV advertising, such videos were recorded on laptop hard drives in the nineties, and at the same time served as a demonstration of multimedia capabilities:


    Not all people will live to see the end of such a video. This ad is much more fun:


    But the most memorable commercials were in the nineties from Intel. To advertise a processor to a mass audience, a piece of iron that almost no one ever sees, was a fresh idea:


    Even cooler is the Palm V Pocket PC advertisement, which plays out the possibility of wireless data transmission via infrared:


    Fast forward to two thousandths: a very pompous advertisement for Compaq iPaq handheld computers based on Microsoft Pocket PC:


    Brainstorming advertisement for a Motorola RAZR phone. He was certainly thin, but not as thin:


    In the advertising of the first Nokia 7650 smartphone based on Symbian, no one fights, and in general everything is very cute. The capabilities of the built-in camera are shown. Everything is in accordance with the motto of the company: Connecting People.


    And this is a very revealing commercial for the Nokia N97 smartphone . Introduced at the end of 2008, it was the response of the then market leader to the Apple iPhone. And the advertisement is very similar: the capabilities of the interface are demonstrated, and you might think that Nokia has the same thing, only better. In fact, the N97 was rather a failure: the touch-interface pulled over by Symbian was uncomfortable, illogical, and in some places braking.


    Well, let's finish where we started - with an iPhone. Many people think that a good product sells itself, it may not need advertising at all. This is not entirely true, although it is true that with a drop in sales (for various reasons), device advertising appears more. Advertising computers, game consoles, smartphones, network services is a connection with people outside the narrow stratum of fans who already know what is cool and what is not.


    I have revised high-tech product commercials for several decades. And probably, starting from the nineties they didn’t change much in format: emotional, usually focused on one particular feature, slightly (or strongly) exaggerating the capabilities of advertised devices. But they also absorbed the style and spirit of the corresponding eras, from the naive eighties, through the unlucky nineties and quite calm against their background zero. This selection shows that not all manufacturers succeed in really cool videos, and often it does not even depend on the budget. Trying to squeeze the whole amount of knowledge about a product that you and your team brought to the light can be very difficult. It is difficult to distract and try to imagine your device from the side. It is difficult to determine and try to understand the target audience. The important thing is that for any product, even if you sell it only to other companies, it can be useful to do it. Explain in 30 seconds, or at least a minute, what is so cool in the creation of your hands?

    Bonus: commercials from Russian TV that I found interesting.

    Dandy (everyone plays):


    Advertising Vist computers with Intel Pentium processors:


    Early advertising of the Amphiton player from Soviet times:


    Windows ME Advertising:


    And of course, an enduring masterpiece, the advertising of the Fan factory “Moven”:


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