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Remember that awkward HTC One (M8) ad with Gary Oldman?

by Justin Herrick | June 3, 2018June 3, 2018 12:00 pm PST

HTC wasn’t always struggling with flagships that fade fast every year. Turn back the clock, and remember the days when HTC was a force in the mobile industry. The Taiwanese brand was a leader after it assisted in Android’s launch. People knew HTC, and its mobile devices were often viewed as the best Apple and Samsung alternatives.

Those days are long gone, unfortunately. HTC can’t figure out a way to stand out in a crowded field dominated by a handful of competitors. Yet we’re still able to look back at the good days.

Rather than sticking with the establishment in 2014, HTC went on its own path. It took what worked for the One (M7) and made just the right tweaks. The all-metal unibody design stayed, but HTC reworked it with brushed aluminum. Then there was the groundbreaking dual-camera setup. You may see that on countless flagships now, but the One (M8) was a trailblazer ahead of its time.

As much as I loved the One (M8), there’s one very strange thing I still laugh about today.

The early advertisements for the phone featured award-winning English actor Gary Oldman. You’d think that would be brilliant, but he took on a way-too-serious approach. HTC made it even more awkward by putting Oldman in a dimly-lit home on a rainy night.

Oldman is repeating “blah, blah, blah” throughout the house. It’s initially comical given that, if you’re familiar with the actor, he’s typically in serious roles. He’s appeared in HannibalThe Darkest Hour, and The Dark Knight. So you laugh until, all of a sudden, Oldman turns serious for HTC and the One (M8).

The actor, staring straight into the camera, gives us this:

“It doesn’t matter what I say, because the all new HTC One (M8) is designed for people who form their own opinions. So go ahead. Ask the internet.”

HTC made an ad for millennials, but it used someone who millennials don’t know in a setting millennials aren’t familiar with. Most millennials are not living in a spacious, glass-built home in Los Angeles. They’re usually at home with their parents or crammed into a cardboard box-sized apartment with some friends.

Again, millennials also don’t know Gary Oldman. When HTC used Robert Downey Jr. the year before in an ad campaign, at least Iron Man 3 had just premiered.

The whole premise of the ad, by the way, is more ridiculous than anything else. Oldman looked into my soul to tell me that, unless I’m an independent thinker, I shouldn’t buy the One (M8).

Its purpose is not lost on me, in case you were concerned why I’m talking about an HTC ad from several years ago. Oldman was saying “blah, blah, blah” over and over again to emphasize how a phone should speak for itself. But let’s be real: HTC needed to tell the world about the One (M8) in 2014 as much as it does the U12+ in 2018.

The extended version of the ad, which didn’t get much airtime, elevates the awkwardness:

The theme remains the same. He’s not talking about the hardware or software. Instead, you’re reminded that HTC “doesn’t make phones for everyone.” So the One (M8) may or may not be the phone for you.

Oldman requests you go search on the web for information, which you might as well do because you certainly won’t get any from this ad. Then he stares into your soul yet again… for thirty seconds. It’s just you and an Oscar-winning actor having a staring match because he wants you to go online but you want him to speak in his British accent.

Going back a smidge, it’s truly bizarre HTC thought it’d communicate effectively with millennials in such a gloomy setting. Aside from having an actor they don’t know and literally saying nothing about the product, you barely see the One (M8).

The mistake teaches us a lesson. While he’s a terrific actor, Gary Oldman cannot sell mobile devices. More seriously, HTC’s consistently failed to educate consumers about its products. That’s true four years later as, following the sale of its mobile division, HTC desperately needs to release a hit.


Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...

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