Tech ads of 2013: Google best, Apple, Microsoft worst

Tech saw a very competitive atmosphere that was reflected in much of the advertising. Some companies clearly put thought into their work. Others occasionally panicked.

A scene from a Scroogled ad. Microsoft Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I am told that 2013 was a lost year for tech.

Apparently, there was no innovation. There was merely a concentration on such moving aspects as money.

This may well be true, but that didn't stop tech companies from trying to claim that their latest something was so very different and important and, most of all utterly necessary.

There is, perhaps, nothing less necessary than Google Glass. This ill-designed exercise in nosiness is, for some, an expression of everything people fear when they have to spend too many hours with a nerd.

Yet what Google did very cleverly was to make the introduction of Google Glass feel both human and fascinating.

Its launch campaign could have been both intimidating and faintly frightening. Instead, Google cleverly focused on the human aspects of adding an extra, exciting dimension to your life.

The Web site felt perversely human. So much so that if you had put the Apple logo above it, no one would have questioned the provenance.

For this surprise alone, Google deserves the best tech ad award.

There were several other memorable contributions from tech companies. Samsung had a maddening year. It continued to mock Apple to great effect . It even mocked the Super Bowl with a hilarious ad featuring Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd .

But then there was the painfully gauche and sexist launch of the Galaxy S4 . Samsung's year ended even more embarrassingly (if that were possible) with a Galaxy Gear ad which associated the product with uncontrolled creepiness .

This was a trap Google could have fallen into but didn't.

But what of the tech industry's stalwarts? Somehow, they bear an additional responsibility to bear the standard, as it were.

For its part, Apple's advertising showed a certain crisis of confidence. Apple's best ads have always been its products. The actual ads serve merely to express the product's beauty, make it feel human, and to set it to music.

In 2013, however, Apple released several ads that showed more than a tinge of neurosis. There was an ad that gloried in the notion that if you're not taking pictures on your iPhone, you're not alive.

But the most difficult to bear was an ad launching the concept of "Designed By Apple In California."

Not only did it depict a Westerner in Asia ignoring the locals because he just had to, had to take a photograph with his iPad. It also featured the most depressing ad copy Apple has ever emitted.

"This is what matters," began the voiceover. "The experience of a product."

The company that had owned humanity for so long was suddenly sounding like a needy techie, desperate for a date.

For that one line, in the context of a largely laudable advertising history, Apple sank to the bottom.

By the end of the year, Cupertino had redeemed itself with a charming ad for the holidays , in which a teen actually tried to do something nice.

But the experience of that one ad still lingered like a bad wedding lasagne.

At the bottom, Apple was joined by Microsoft. Redmond hasn't always been confident with its ads. Too often, they've been leaden -- none more so than last year's launch for a very interesting product, the Surface. This all-dancing cringeathon was continued this year .

On the other hand, the company presided over perfectly enjoyable Xbox One advertising .

But then there was Scroogled.

Microsoft's been in an aggressive mood all year. It's been aggressive toward every competing company it can think of and there's something hearty about that.

Google has been very much in Redmond's thoughts. As far as Microsoft is concerned, Mountain View represents everything that is heinous, that Google is little more than an espionage organization that is creepily infiltrating your every pore.

But the true problem of the Scroogled campaign is its lamentable execution. The quite embarrassing crudity of some of the ads made the whole enterprise seem not noble, but tawdry.

With sub-porn direction and robotic performances culled from the 1960s, this was the last thing one of America's strongest and most famous companies ought to be emitting.

So these were merely the ones that stuck in the mind. There were, no doubt, more and perhaps even better or worse.

I wonder what these companies might conjure for next year. Please, Microsoft, no more dancing.

 

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