RIM, the maker of the Blackberry smartphone, released a TV spot ostensibly retelling Moby Dick through the Blackberry by showcasing the phone’s capabilities, but in reality reducing a literary masterpiece to inanity by younging it up. You know, for the kids. If you haven’t seen it yet, let’s watch:
This spot bothers me, but not because it’s denigrating a classic. I believe there are no sacred cows, and that there is a time and a place to skewer anything. What bothers me is that there is an implicit assumption on the part of the advertiser that the core demographic can’t understand complex themes, so don’t even bother trying. I find the spot condescending and totally unnecessary.
Like literature, advertising is an art. I can imagine the snorts of surprise and have actually been scoffed at for making such a remark, but it’s true. Combining text, sound, imagery and motion to deliver a client’s message as clearly and succinctly as possible to the intended audience is a delicate balance that is simple, but not easy. And there is a big difference between simplifying and dumbing things down.
P.T. Barnum famously said that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American People…but I really think that we, as advertisers, have a responsibility to not participate in dumbing down the message, simply because it isn’t necessary. If a client needs to talk down or treat their market like dolts, then perhaps they ought to take a hard look at their product.