The Pitch Bollywood tropes can be hard for non-Indians to process, and the song-and-dance routine in this Acer spot is no exception. It starts off as a West Side Story clone, with finger-snapping toughs—er, "toughs"—bobbing their heads. But why are they in a prison? And what is matinee idol Hrithik Roshan doing there, teasing two inmates whose sentences include the forced use of laptops sans Acer's "eTechnology" bloatware? As the ensuing musical production explains, using an Acer Aspire 4920 shall liberate you from the shackles of technofrustration. "Life is busy, Acer makes it easy!" chimes Roshan, assisted by a gaggle of comely backup dancers. Perhaps, but does Acer really have a prayer of becoming the subcontinent's go-to laptop brand?
Rip-Off Of Sort of a cross between a conventional Bollywood musical and the Elvis Presley vehicle Jailhouse Rock. Suffice to say that the spot's not meant to translate well to different markets—if they ran this ad during an NFL game, for example, Acer would become an instant Stateside laughingstock. (Especially with that clumsy dubbing—an unavoidable consequence, I gather, of Acer's goal of doing Hindi, Tamil, and Bengali versions of the spot, too.)
The Spin It's no secret that India's the vaunted Next Big Thing for computer makers, owing to its rapid economic growth and technophilic middle class. But for too long, many Indian consumers have settled for native brands such as HCL, whose laptops are notoriously fickle. Those two incarcerated geeks in the ad? Note how their screens are flashing all sorts of gobbeldygook—that's Acer taking a swipe at HCL's alleged penchant for head-scratching software schemes. Also, don't think Hrithik Roshan came cheap—he's a bigtime star who surely commanded a sizeable endorsement fee. Taiwan-based Acer obviously senses a major opportunity in India, as well as a pressing need to head-off archrival Lenovo at the pass.
Counterspin It took a few viewings, but I finally got what Acer's pushing here: a software suite formally known as Empowering Technology, which lets users set-up quick launch commands and other shortcuts. While I'm sure Acer's intentions were noble, this is exactly the sort of infantilizing measure that tends to aggravate users rather than help them—and, yes, that includes newbies. Acer vets have mostly carped about eTechnology, while notebook forums are littered with system-performance complaints. Once again, a computer manufacturer may have grossly underestimated the acumen of consumers.
Takeaway According to Gartner, laptop sales in India were up 74 percent in the first half of this year, versus the same time period in 2006. Things should get even frothier real soon, thanks to a recent, extremely esoteric court decision that's going to reduce tariffs on imported laptops. So you can see why Acer's going full-bore in India, hiring the likes of Roshan instead of going the usual spokesmodel route. The big question now is whether Indian consumers will prioritize price or performance. HCL is already striking back, by announcing the development of an ultra-cheap laptop line called Classmate PC. And HP's heavy in the mix, having opened a new Delhi factory earlier this year. Acer's definitely making a name for itself with the Gemstone lineup, but the competition for rupees is gonna be fierce.
Hype-O-Meter 4.5 (out of 10). Note that this is virtually impossible for a Westerner like myself to grade an ad like this, since I can barely sit through five minutes worth of Bollywood dreck. (A more learned observer hates this spot with a fiery passion.) But nice to see Roshan pop up again, after catching his utterly incomprehensible Dhoom 2 on my trip to India last year.
Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired, a columnist for Slate, and author of the forthcoming Now the Hell Will Start. His Hype Sheet column appears every Thursday on Gizmodo.