HTC has pretty well figured out how to make a great smartphone. It's selling them that has lately stumped the Taiwan-based company. But that may be about to change.
After promises of a new marketing strategy, HTC announced Aug. 12 that it has signed actor Robert Downey Jr. to a two-year deal and slightly lifted the veil on a new "Here's to Change" ad campaign, releasing a 15-second teaser from the full ad on YouTube.
In the ad, Downey, a sort of business eccentric, is hustled into a dull, beige-on-taupe conference room surrounded by bland business types—the answers man to a group in need of them.
"Subversive thinking has arrived," announces his handler. After which Downey, opening a suitcase he's handcuffed to, takes out a piece of paper, touches it to a spot over his right brow, stares intensely into a middle-distance and then tells the group: "Humongous Tinfoil Catamaran."
The spot is a spoof on the HTC acronym, which the company hasn't made public.
"We get asked what 'HTC' stands for pretty often," HTC Global Community Manager Darren Krape wrote in an Aug. 7 post on the HTC blog. "Some have suggested the letters mean 'High Tech Computer.' Others have noticed the curious coincidence that HTC happens to be the initials of one of our founders, HT Cho. There have been some clever guesses as well—'Happy Telephone Company' is a pretty good one."
Working to further add some fun to the acronym, the company has created an HTC Generator that spits out additional name options.
A few clicks through the Generator reward you with another clip of the Downey ad—from seconds before the YouTube segment. Downey is deposited by a helicopter, in front of the building holding the bland executives, and is greeted by the handler (dressed in 1960s I'm-a-director attire) whose outstretched hand is greeted with a smack.
"HTC's innovation, authenticity and boldness have made us the change-makers in the mobile industry and led us to launch what influencers regard as the best phone in the world, the HTC One," HTC Chief Marketing Officer Ben Ho said in the Aug. 12 statement.
"Our original and playful Change platform is different to anything else out there, and aligns our brand with the same qualities our phones are already known for. With this campaign, we are affirming what HTC's role is in the mobile market, which is to define change and to lead the industry in developing the newest and most innovative technologies."
HTC plans to release the full ad Aug. 15, followed by a series of spots on TV and in movie theaters.
The campaign will roll out in three phases. In the first, HTC will playfully highlight what the brand name means to people. In the second, it'll show off HTC features like the BlinkFeed and BoomSound. And in the third, it'll focus on how HTC products "empower individuals to drive change in their own lives."
The HTC blog posts—there's also an infographic of "Great Changes in History" (Phil Collins replacing Peter Gabriel in Genesis; the invention of the spork)—aren't really very funny, and neither is the Generator. But the Robert Downey Jr. ads—which HTC says Downey has collaborated on with its agency and "injected his own style" into—seem like genuinely good ads that people will not just sit through but seek out.
Android Central reported June 21 that the two-year deal with Downey cost HTC $12 million.
Here's to change.
Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to state that Phil Collins replaced Peter Gabriel in Genesis, not the reverse. Apologies for the lameness of that mistake.