Forty-four years ago this week, Motorola placed the first phone call from a mobile phone. That’s a genuinely big moment, and as someone who is glued to my smartphone for at least 18 hours a day, I’m very glad that happened.
Unfortunately, Motorola decided to use that moment as a “hook” for a very bad Hamilton-esque video spot, bragging on about the company’s history.
And just as Hamilton-homages feel positively passé in 2017, so does this video, which just serves as a reminder as to how long it has been since Motorola had a phone anyone cared about. Corporate spots are almost always full of cringe, but this “rap” video feels especially David Brent-worthy, thanks to its insistence on referencing Lin-Manuel Miranda, as if the “kids” today even care about Hamilton anymore.
So how long has it been since a Motorola phone mattered? If I’m being charitable, I’d probably say the original Moto X, released back in 2013. That was the first flagship phone the brand released after its acquisition by Google in 2011. Sadly for Moto, the so-called “Google Phone” wasn’t a sales hit, and Google wound up selling Motorola to Lenovo for nearly $10 billion less than it paid for it, less than six months after the device’s release. Before the Moto X, you’d probably have to go back to the original Motorola Droid—released in 2009—to find a Motorola phone that got anyone excited.
But most of us still associate Motorola with the iconic Razr smartphone from 2004, and 2004 was a long-ass time ago. Certainly no one cares about 2016's Moto Z with its stupid modular accessories, because no one wants a modular smartphone.
It’s telling that the DynaTAC (AKA the Zack Morris phone) and the Razr are the only two devices that get a shout-out in the rap, because even the person Motorola hired to write this atrocity realizes that no one watching actually knows what the Moto Z is.
If it were any other week, Motorola’s “rap” would win “worst branded ad” by a large margin. But because this spot was released the same day Pepsi decided to drop that hideous “short film” starring Kendall Jenner, it gets avoids that fate. (At least Motorola isn’t claiming its next smartphone can be a call to arms for The Resistance.) Somehow, having a bad ad usurped by an even worse ad makes the situation even sadder.