What was that BlackBerry commercial you just saw?

If you watched the Super Bowl, chances are you're scratching your head over BlackBerry's different commercial. CNET gets the lowdown on the spot from the company's marketing chief.

BlackBerry ad
So did a clown just explode, or what? BlackBerry

Okay, so what now?

BlackBerry opted to go with the whimsical and fantastical with its Super Bowl commercial, showing what the new BlackBerry Z10can't do instead of what it can do. To say it's a little strange would be an understatement.

Indeed, it's a bold choice, one that some would argue might be a little head-scratching. But it's one that BlackBerry Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben believes will turn some heads and get consumers primed for a launch that's still more than a month away.

"The Super Bowl is a big wake-up call saying BlackBerry is back," Boulben told CNET. "It says there's something worth checking out."

With the BlackBerry phones generally getting good reviews (read CNET's review here), much of the company's success will ride on how well it markets the phone, and how strongly the carriers support it in their stories and with their sales reps. There are many examples of companies that failed despite great products and services, and BlackBerry is looking to avoid their past mistakes.

Which is where the Super Bowl ad comes in. Boulben says the commercial is a one-off event to take advantage of the Super Bowl's massive reach. The commercial is basically everything Boulben has said he wouldn't do for the campaign.

The commercial offers an early glimpse at the Z10 before things get weird. After he starts using the phone, the new BlackBerry customer briefly erupts in flames, grows elephant legs, teleports himself with a colorful poof, and turns an out-of-control truck into thousands of rubber ducks. The tagline: "In 30 seconds, it's quicker to show you what it can't do."

The ad asks interested viewers to check out BlackBerry's Z10 Web site to find out more information about the features of the smartphone.

With so many splashy commercials filling the airwaves during the Super Bowl, BlackBerry wanted to do something different from the traditional ad showing off features such as the Z10's Hub or Peek. Boulben, however, said the testing on the commercial has been positive. He noted it would be a "one-off" spot unrelated to the rest of the campaign.

"We wanted to do something that breaks the conventions of the category," he said. "If you do a traditional commercial at the Super Bowl, it will fall flat."

While the Z10 has launched elsewhere around the world, and will debut in Canada next week, the U.S. will be among the last countries to get the phone, thanks in part to the more rigorous testing process that it undergoes here. So BlackBerry has to deal with keeping the interest level high until mid-March, which is roughly when the Z10 should arrive in carrier stories.

Boulben said that during the dead period, he will attempt to keep interest going through online campaigns, mobile ads, YouTube, and social networks. The company will seed devices to celebrities and other high-profile figure to build buzz for the products. The goal is to drive traffic to the BlackBerry Web site, and then on to the pre-registration pages run by the carriers.

BlackBerry won't start its full campaign, titled "Keep Moving," until the Z10 launches next month, Boulben said, noting that he wanted to maximize the impact of the ads by having the smartphone available to consumers. The campaign would be more traditional and highlight the practical advantage of the features found on BlackBerry 10, he said.

BlackBerry would launch its campaign alongside the carriers, he said. But he wouldn't specify just how enthusiastically the carriers would support the new smartphones. He added that it was a good sign that the carriers came out during launch day to commit to the company, which is rarity in the industry.

"Behind the scenes, our teams and their teams are working night and day together," he said.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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