Hype Sheet

The Moto PEBL


By Brendan I. Koerner

The Pitch A serene-yet-serious man bearing a vague resemblance to a Siamese Dream-era James Iha holds a black PEBL in his outstretched hand. How he manages to look so calm is beyond me; if I were standing on a glacier clad in nothing but a fringed blanket, I'd be freezing my babymakers off. The copy in the upper left-hand corner, meanwhile, compares the PEBL to a "natural clam."

Rip-Off Of Many a high-end vodka ad extolling the virtues of pure Scandinavian (or Polish, or Russian) water. I'm also reminded of the Sandman graphic novel Season of Mists, in which several ancient gods gather to quibble over the key to Hell. Our PEBL loving friend here totally looks like he belongs in that plotline, perhaps as Loki's Gal Friday.

The Spin Motorola's trying to parlay the Razr's success into an unassailable brand image. Like Apple in the realm of MP3s, the company wants to be known as the go-to vendor for well-designed handsets—not in terms of features, but rather looks and usability. And a big part of that branding strategy is to take the Absolut approach to advertising: create images that wouldn't look out of place in a museum, rather than spec-ed out product shots that only geeks could love. The goal with the PEBL is to capture those same consumers who purchased the iPod Nano because, darnit, it just looks so friggin' amazing—never mind that you've already got a 40-gig iPod and a Mini on the desk already.

Counterspin Geeks like us know that the PEBL was delayed a full quarter due to problems with the hinges—prototypes were popping open unexpectedly, and often crashing to the floor as a result. Not that the ad doesn't illustrate how the handset's opening mechanism operates—for that, you have to visit hellomoto.com and check out the 360-degree tour. To be honest, I'm still not 100 percent sure how the PEBL's able to respond to slight hand twitches. But, hey, look! A quasi-androgynous model in a fringed blanket! And he's in, um Greenland? I'm sold.

Takeaway You have to give Motorola credit for reinventing its brand over the past few years; tough to believe that the same company that used to specialize in clunky radios has now surpassed Nokia et. al. as the king of cool handsets. Granted, there's not a lot of info in the ad, and your mileage may vary if you don't click with the strange dude palming the PEBL. But the ad sticks in the mind just enough that you want to learn more, and it deserves props for the fashion-mag photography.

Hype-O-Meter 8.5 (out of 10); if you vibed to the whole, Euro-style "Hello, Moto!" campaign, this is right up your alley. Also if you're an over-26 Smashing Pumpkins fan.

Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for both The New York Times and Slate. His Hype Sheet column appears every other Wednesday on Gizmodo.

Read more Hype Sheet