Few things set geek hearts aflutter like a juicy hardware rivalry. Who among us hasn't thoroughly enjoyed taking sides in such legendary throwdowns as Mac versus PC, PlayStation versus Xbox, or (for the truest of old-timers) Atari versus Intellivision? It's thus in our nature to pay excessive attention to the raging Blu-ray versus HD DVD imbroglio, which is several shades more entertaining that any other ongoing battle. Enormous vats of digital ink have been spilled in the name of arguing which format is better. But quality doesn't always guarantee victory—just ask the Betamax. Who, then, is winning the disc-of-tomorrow advertising war? We'll start with HD DVD's latest entrant, starring...ex-San Diego Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer? What, Rich Kotite wasn't available?
HD DVD's Pitch Toshiba is obviously no great believer in splashy ads, as they clearly spent a pittance on this spot. Not only did the HD DVD champion refuse to pay for the right to use NFL logos, it also hired an out-of-work, notoriously uncharismatic coach as its spokesman. (Toshiba also seems to have skimped on the dialogue—the exchange between Coach Schottenheimer and Number 11 is, uh, less than inspired.) Despite the clumsy execution, however, the goal here is wise—the majority of consumers are sitting out the format wars, because they're afraid of picking the loser and then being saddled with expensive doorstops. So the combo-disc approach makes sense, as does the college-lecture vibe; at this point, consumer education is a priority.
Mission Accomplished? Absolutely not, because Toshiba botches the most important part of the ad: the website mention. As of this writing, HDDVDNBC.com brings up nothing but a blank page. How can consumers be expected to trust a new technology that doesn't deliver on so simple a promise? The folks behind this campaign better get on that quick, because this ad will doubtless air several times during Saturday's Jacksonville-Pittsburgh wildcard game. (It was in heavy rotation during last week's Colts-Titans game.)
Blu-ray's Pitch The PS3 becomes some sort of nightmarish robot, in order to tout the console's secondary use as a Blu-ray player. Sony, of course, loves to tout its PS3 sales as evidence that the Blu-ray format will eventually win out; though only 370,000 standalone Blu-ray players have been sold (about 200,000 less than standalone HD DVD players), there are 3.4 million Blu-ray drives in PS3s. On top of that, the new PS3 drives feature the most up-to-date BD Profile 1.1 spec. Not that there's any specs porn in this spot, nor any hint of reassurance for consumers who fear picking a loser. The ad is all about the dazzle—though the impact of that dazzle will vary greatly according to your TV's might.