Motorola's brilliant Xoom ad: answering Apple's 1984

In 1984 Apple released the most famous and least-broadcasted television ad of all time: 1984, celebrating individuality and creativity. Man against the machine, one again the collective, a woman against Big Brother.

Motorola’s 2011 Xoom ad brilliantly references 1984 and juxtaposes Apple then – challenger, upstart, weak, facing established titans against insurmountable odds – with Apple now – the giant of the mobile device industry.

Where 1984 shows grey assembly-line men in grey lines in a grey room (reminiscent in post-iMac times as the omnipresent beige of pre-second-coming-of-Steve PCs), Xoom shows white-clothed clones with white wires leading to their ears. Where 1984’s hero(ine) is a woman; Xoom’s hero is a man. 1984 is colorless in blacks and greys; Xoom is colorless in whites, stainless steel, and glass.

The symbolism could not be clearer.

It’s brilliant and evocative, as well as dangerous. By explicitly referencing Apple as leader, Motorola is casting itself as underdog. True, but not necessarily the positioning of a winner.

The penultimate point of the ad comes when the hero uses his Xoom to take a picture (which an iPad can’t yet do) of flowers and send it to a white girl in a white hood. She gets it … and then in a movement exploding with symbolism pulls her white iPod-like earbuds out.

The ad cuts to a Xoom tablet with the words: “the tablet to create a better world.” Which of course also explicitly references Apple’s desire – embodied in the 1984 ad – to improve people’s lives.

Brilliant. Exquisitely shot and edited. And it even works well on a product placement level.

Very impressive!


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