Palm beckons your sorry ass into The Future

Posted 7/13/2009 by WHayes in Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
I'm sure you've seen them by now: the commercial ad campaign for the Palm Pre smartphone featuring that inexplicably attractive yet oddly plasticine blonde woman and her army of epicanthic inmates. If not, allow me to introduce you:

Produced by Boston, MA based ad firm Modernista! (the most love-it-or-hate-it home page I've seen), the commercials -- three so far -- have a dreamy, surreal edge that both evolves and compounds with each new spot. The above ad, "Flow," was the first, and is honestly the tamest of the group, not in scope and ingenuity, but in terms of dunking you head-first into futurist mindfuck.

Confused? Let me explain. There are certain things we've come to expect from 21st century commercials. In my unprofessional opinion, TV advertising has always been an arms race. Competing firms rush to create short films that not only entice you into buying the product, but burn distinct, noteworthy images into your memory which you will always and forever assert with that product. Its why anyone over the age of 20 can instantly recall the "always Coca-Cola" jingle that saturated the mid-90s airwaves. I'll always remember hearing that song, distorted through a shitty AM alarm-clock radio, blasting from the nightstand by my parents bed during Astros games. With the new century came CollegeHumor (1999), eBaum's Wold (2001), YouTube (2005), and the culture of the viral video. Not only could amateur auteurs utilize the internet to massively (and cheaply) broadcast their talent, but so could the amateur jackass with a cell phone camera. This changed the aesthetics and the very rules of memorable short filmmaking. Commercials were the precursor to viral videos, and ad firms found themselves again needing to go above and beyond through advertising to not only sell their clients product, but give their product something I don't think it needed before: replay value.

We can follow this train back to shiny black smartphones, but the full explanation would take a few more words than you're interested in hearing. The abridged version is this: evolving television advertising is finally giving consumers the bizarre, trippy, unique, and, yes, futuristic commercials we'd been promised by RoboCop, Max Headroom, and Minority Report.

And thus we arrive at Modernista!, the Pre, and that blonde chick with really soft shoulders: "Flow" strikes me as the most normal because it relies the most on canon viral aesthetics. Memorable location? Check. Attractive spokesmodel? Got one. Massive, choreographed dance number paying homage to an earlier viral sensation? Hell yeah. In a cliche, its very 2009. Its Modernista's other Pre ads, "Go with the Flow," and "Juggler," that really get my future going:

Why is she standing like that? Why are her eyes the same color as her skin? Was she animated by the Nestene Consciousness? If so, should I hold a seance to summon Jon Pertwee? Should I ask her for her number? The great part is that none of these questions matter. There was only one answer, anyway: the phone. More specifically, I'm supposed to take my curiosity about her and transpose it to the device. To effectively enable such projection, Modernista crafted these abstract, bizarre, and unique commercials that, for me, recall everything my childhood promised the future would be: There's that surreal calmness in her tone, synonymous to the standard "interactive computer of the future voice" mid-90s computer games and TV shows couldn't get enough of. The music is calming, the ambient noise of a floating metropolis, and the background feels natural, but simultaneously moves too fluidly to be conscious reality. Its a fantasy. Its the matrix. Its the future. A future stamped with Sprint logos.

5 comment(s) to... “Palm beckons your sorry ass into The Future”


CtotheB said...

My only problem with this method is that it feels too forced. I am supposed to feel on the cutting edge by buying this product, but unfortunately I'd feel like giving in would leave me on the cutting board.

Anonymous said...

you should definitely ask her for her number

PicturesqueMusiq said...

Agreed. Why do I have an erie feeling that I'm going to wake up to someone whispering "David... David..." What movie was that from?

And to address the Modernista! site: I was 1) thoroughly confused for the first 15 seconds 2) impressed with the originality of using cookies/referral pages 3) intrigued why the hell would they do that and 4) really annoyed that they did virtually nothing (other than their one-of-a-kind nav bar) to brand themselves.

If I were an old geezer shopping for a multi million dollar ad campaign, I would be completely confused. However if I did have someone pushing me to look deeper into the site to explore their portfolio, I would take them in a heartbeat for a modern, captivating piece.

The simplicity of the page and its functionality through flickr, youtube and makes a web designer go... why do I spend so much time worrying about color schemes and curly cues and just rock the navbar. Ha.

Anywho. Get her number. Any guesses on how to get it?

WHayes said...

actually the funny thing about the Pre is that a manufacturing defect left the bottom end of the keypad with a really sharp edge, so yeah, it could cut a sucka.

here it cuts cheese:

the ads do feel a little forced, but I think thats part of the aesthetic. especially with the last two, they feel like they're trying to capture that "anti-commercial" aesthetic companies used on the Gen-X consumer. remember OK Soda? we were too young for it, but i do watch Mission Hill reruns, and remember "Nevermind;" both were part that whole pre-millennium angst thing. the last two ads try and break the rules like OK did: who casts a pretty girl only to hide her face? why make her sound tranquil (read: stoned) when you could just have Sham-Pow guy scream the info at you? they're going all "anti" on us, and are using a 90s concept of the future to sell it.

this is, of course, rumor and conjecture.

WHayes said...

and a major portion of the angst was a smug sense of irony. i forgot to ad that. not that the Pre ads are trying to be ironic, but they could draw from that influence soup.

"lets make ads that feel like what we thought the future was gonna be about."

"yeah! and then we can get flannel shirts together."

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