When OnePlus first stepped in the smartphone market, it seemed like one of those new age brands that did not believe in mainstream marketing ideas (specifically advertising) but as the brand has gained popularity, it seems like it has now taken up advertising as a means to market its products. Along with basic ads about its smartphones, OnePlus also roped in celebrities to push its products. Earlier we saw an ad campaign featuring Bollywood veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan from the brand and with the launch of its latest flagship, the brand has collaborated with a Hollywood name – none other than Robert Downey Jr, famous for his roles as Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. How do these two names add up, then? (Pun intended)
Martial Arts, RDJ and some OP7 Pro
The 33-second ad, very simply called, “Robert Downey Jr Presents OnePlus 7 Pro” is a series of clips of Robert Downey Jr performing martial arts, interspersed with OnePlus 7 Pro product images. It starts with RDJ bowing down in the traditional martial arts manner, followed then a visual of the OnePlus 7 Pro, highlighting its cameras, with lenses literally popping out of the frame.
The ad then goes back to RDJ, showing his martial arts skills with again a hint of the OnePlus 7 Pro in the middle. The ad gets to RDJ again, after a series of moves, he falls down but gets back up again, ready to fight once again. The ad ends with OnePlus 7 Pro on the screen with the company’s tagline “Never Settle” on the phone’s display.
These visuals are accompanied by a voiceover by RDJ and deep background music, and a largely dark background. In his voiceover, RDJ says,
“Discipline creates greatness,
It’s a simple concept.
You have to have clarity, focus, vision.
Fluid, seamless motion.
To not fight force with force is the challenge.
Never give up. Never accept less than the best.
OnePlus. Never Settle.”
Getting overshadowed by the celeb
If you have been reading our ad analyses over the past few years, you know how we have always had this bitter-sweet relation with celebrity endorsements. The new OnePlus 7 Pro ad only adds to the bitterness in that equation.
When an ad is about a smartphone, we like to see the smartphone in the lead. We like to see the smartphone being the hero, saving the day. But when celebrities get in the picture, the poor product is often shoved to the sidelines and becomes a sidekick that only gets attention when the hero is sick of it. And when that celebrity is RDJ, there is little to no chance that your product will get any attention (barring an exceptional script or presentation).
Sadly, that is exactly what has happened in the ad for the OnePlus 7 Pro.
It is not like OnePlus did not show the smartphone in the ad at all or it was just RDJ all the way. The problem is no matter how much OnePlus 7 Pro we saw in the ad, it did not really make the impact the phone was supposed to make. There were glimpses of the OnePlus 7 Pro right through the ad but even in those glimpses, the company did not really highlight a USP or a feature or something that could really blow the minds of viewers (and the phone has plenty to do so – check our first cut).
When you place your product alongside a celebrity as iconic and popular as RDJ, you have to make sure that your product stands out in ways more than one. The OnePlus 7 Pro, unfortunately, could not do so – not even in a single way, let alone multiple. Much like many other celebrity-featured ads, RDJ got the spotlight while the device had to manage with whatever was left. If that sounds harsh, check the comments on the company’s YouTube channel where the ad is released has more people crushing over RDJ than talking about the phone itself.
What adds to the disappointment is that spot does not even bring out the witty, charming, sarcastic RDJ we all know and love. It shows him performing martial arts in the ad, which is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of RDJ. And while production values and sound quality are very good, the ad is rather flat and one dimensional. Even the presence of RDJ does not really leave the sort of impact that the man is capable of.
The ad hardly talks about the product, does not feature it well enough and is surprisingly slow for a phone that claims to go beyond speed. The only good thing about this ad is the fact that it is short and only lasts for about 30 seconds. Not sweet, but hey, it is short at least.
Why did OnePlus settle for this?
When brands pick celebrities to sell their products, one of the few things we think they should keep in mind is the fact that the celebrities do not need attention, it is the product that does. It is the product that needs to be the hero. Just signing the most popular celebrity in the world will not sell your product (smartphone, in this case). At the end of the day, advertising needs to sell and make the product blend with the celebrity, even while ensuring it does not get overshadowed by it. Otherwise, it fails its purpose.
We think OnePlus could have done a lot more with this ad. It could have given us a story, something that could excite the viewers about the phone, especially when the smartphone is loaded with high-end specs and comes with a lot of hype in the market already. And on top of it, the brand had RDJ by its side. The fact that a combination of such strong specs, price, design, and celebrity did not really do a lot for the phone is a little disappointing.
A smartphone ad is supposed to leave you with information, question or needs to generate curiosity about the smartphone, but all this ad only leaves us is with the information that RDJ can perform martial arts (we already knew he had a great voice!). It adds to his impressive set of skills. But what does it do for the OnePlus 7 Pro? That is the one question you are left with after the ad ends.
We do hope the brand does not settle with this ad. Both it and RDJ deserve better.