When Creativity Fails (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

by Ad 2 Tampa Bay | March 4, 2015

Dear reader,

I struggled a bit to come up with something concrete to write about; there are just so many topics to choose from. Should I write about my personal experiences learning to become a versatile art director? How about the deeply cutthroat nature of advertising and the ever-changing landscape of design trends? Maybe I should write about how every facet of an individual’s life is susceptible to the influence of advertising. After several drafts, I deleted what I had originally intended and decided to write about something very dear and special to me. I am of course, referring to the advertising campaign disaster of the Palm Pre.

Some of you might remember the Palm Pre. Two years after the unveiling of the original iPhone, Palm developed its own unique smartphone that was ambitious, capable, and most importantly different from what the iPhone came to represent. Ironically enough, a lot of the features the Palm Pre originally boasted back in 2009 has now been adopted by Apple and featured as software upgrades. For their marketing, Palm chose ad agency Modernista to develop television spots to showcase the Palm Pre’s innovative features. To their credit, Modernista took a gamble and developed a series of commercials that did result in a certain amount of buzz. Unfortunately, the commercials forgot to focus on one basic thing–to show off the phone as much as possible.

Describing one particular spot to someone who has never seen it is like paraphrasing a passage from a Stephen King novel:

A strange and pale woman stands in a pasture of lush and bright shamrock green and turns suddenly to face the camera. A closer inspection of the background reveals a complete lack of buildings or anything resembling modern culture. Questions arise from the first couple seconds: are we in some kind of future utopia where mother nature has claimed ownership of the land and humans live a sublime if not naive lifestyle like the Eloi? She stares into the viewers eyes and speaks with all the tenacity of a trauma victim. She smiles and makes an odd reference to a juggler, and you can’t help noticing the hypnotic and repetitive background music. You feel uneasy and desperately want to turn away. She reveals a small egg-like piece of technology and reveals its multi-window interface. Her disturbing smile returns once more as she tells the viewer that her experience with the juggler was akin to Deja vu.


Here’s the thing about creativity–there is such a thing as too much of it. Needless to say, the commercials failed to properly entice the public and Modernista’s services were no longer required. I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if the agency chose a less-artistic path. If only they chose to showcase the phone’s multiple integrated features, it would’ve fared better with public perception.

A year later, Palm was acquired by HP, and I hold Modernista and their creative campaign as a tragic source of the company’s demise.

Seth Chavara | Visual Content Director