Skip to main content

A still image of the ad for BlackBerry 10 that will be aired during the 2013 Super Bowl.

In its first foray into Super Bowl advertising, Research In Motion Ltd. bucked the trend: while many advertisers rely on the Internet to build anticipation for their commercials ahead of time, RIM was closely guarded about its commercial, releasing only a single still image before the U.S. broadcast.

The major investment – 30 seconds in the U.S. broadcast reportedly cost roughly $3.8-million (U.S.) this year – was RIM's attempt to rebuild its BlackBerry brand with U.S. consumers who have left it in the dust, favouring formidable competitors such as Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd..

The core idea of the ad actually goes against what will be RIM's overall marketing strategy this year. While the company will be focusing heavily on product features and experience in its advertising, the Super Bowl spot instead was built on what the device cannot do.

"It had to be things that are really not things you could do in real life. You have a fantastic element to it," chief marketing officer Frank Boulben said in an interview.

The inspiration actually came from the Marvel comic book characters, the Fantastic Four. The BlackBerry user in the commercial grows scaly, elephantine legs, similar to The Thing. He is set on fire without being burned, a take on the Human Torch. When he disappears in a burst of colourful dust, that was inspired by The Invisible Woman. The only thing he does not do is stretch like Mister Fantastic.

(It's an interesting choice, given that RIM dealt with some scorn last year over a marketing snafu involving a cartoon foursome of "superheroes" it published to its Twitter page. But the reference here is much less overt.)

"We wanted to do it in a bit of a disruptive manner, breaking the conventions of the category, and instead of showcasing the device, to do the opposite and show what the device cannot do and encourage customers to go and check out the device online," Mr. Boulben said.

It's also an attempt by the brand to keep up interest in the U.S., as it faces a potentially harmful delay in its launch in that market. The Super Bowl is a conspicuous demonstration that RIM is investing heavily in advertising again.