Philips and the Art of Naked Humiliation

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The Pitch A melanin-impaired British bloke, donning nothing more than a pair of heart-splashed boxers and a wireless Philips headset, dances maniacally through his mum’s house. All’s going swimmingly until our hero slides into the kitchen, where he rocks a little Running Man, then starts making love to the granite countertop. Alas, the cat is too absorbed in his music to notice the gathering of aging biddies in the living room, just on the other side of some glass doors. When “Jonathan” whips off his undies, stern-faced mum decides she’s had enough; she rings her son, whose headset conveniently allows him to field phone calls, too. Rank embarrassment ensues, as Jonathan covers up his babymakers and exits stage left. Does Philips expect us to emulate this exhibitionist weirdo and pony up around $100 for Bluetooth cans?

Rip-Off Of This is a very YouTube Era ad, and I’m willing to bet that the creators glimpsed themselves a few clips of truly awful dancing before coming up with the concept. But in terms of Madison Avenue antecedents, the one that immediately pops to mind is the classic Bud Light “Parrot” ad, in which a ditz learns her potential one-night-stand’s true feelings. No dancing in that one, but oh-so-much humiliation.

The Spin Notice how there are no technical details in this ad—it instead follows the old writer’s adage of “show, don’t tell.” Jonathan’s nudity actually serves an important purpose, as it makes clear that there are no wires of any kind on his person. And there’s a clever shot towards the end that flicks at the headset’s non-music capabilities, specifically its ability to receive mobile calls. Sure, a non-geek will have no clue that Bluetooth is the technology in question, or what sort of range they might reasonably expect between headset and personal audio player. (This detailed review says upwards of 10 meters.) But the ad is really just a come-hither for the product’s cleanly designed promo site, on which all is explained in relatively plain English.

Counterspin It’s always a risk for ads to choose a doofus as their de facto pitchman. Let’s face it, none of us would like to be caught dancing around naked—and attempting to copulate with a slab of granite!—while our mom’s prune-skinned friends looked on in horror. On the most literal level, this commercial equates ownership of the product with hopeless loserdom—why is this cat living with his mom in the first place, given that he looks closer to 21 than 15? Philips is obviously just trying to use humor to raise product awareness, but it needs to tread lightly—there’s a fine line between a sharp joke and the sort of humiliation that forces you to avert your eyes.

Takeaway This commercial was apparently made for the European market, which explains the fleeting nudity; if this appeared on primetime TV in the U.S., the uproar might rival that which accompanied Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. But if Jonathan’s naughty bits could be blanked out, this would play great on these shores—and Philips might move some of those wireless headsets, too. I’m actually surprised at the dearth of Bluetooth ‘phones on the streets of New York; when people invest in nicer earphones, they usually seem to plunk for noise-canceling options rather than going wireless. Not having tested these Philips cans personally, I can’t really comment on their sound quality. But it’s got to be better than the iPod/Zune/Zen factory ‘phones, plus there’s the added bonus of one-touch switching ‘twixt music and phone calls. It’s an innovation that’s been around for a while, sure, but it’s going to require some mass-marketing to break through. Maybe Philips is finally on the case.

Philips amBX system upgrades your game room


Philips’ amBX system promises to bring your gaming environment into the “real world.” While that sound like a bad pitch for a sequel to Tron, the amBX is actually a bit more low-tech, aiming to make the space in your game room “immersive” by affecting things like ambient lighting. The idea is if you were playing a game where your character was, say, on the bridge of a submarine, lights on the top of the system’s surround speakers would glow red. The amBX even includes four mini fans that’ll blow some air at you when the game calls for a gust of wind (or a bad guy breathing down your neck). It honestly sounds kind of cool if you were playing something creepy like one of the many iterations of Doom or Resident Evil. On the other hand, adding these kind of “multisensory” enhancements to TV and other media has never paid off (anyone remember Smell-o-Vision?), and it’s not like Philips’ Ambilight TVs are flying off the shelves. But I guess those researchers chained up in the Philips Simplicity science pits have to do something. You may see the amBX in a few U.S. stores — in a “sneak preview” of the technology — by Christmas. If you do, try to be cool, okay?

Philips, via The Cool Hunter

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