BlackBerry & Duff McKagan: Who the heck thought this up?

A target audience of exactly no one

As some of you know, I was pretty fond of my BlackBerry for a long time, and after Apple broke my heart in 2007, I was in no hurry to join the iPhone clone army.

(The truth is I’m still a little in love with the Palm Treo I bought in 2002, but saying that gets me either pitying looks or – worse – befuddled “Wha–?”s from the under-30s, so let’s just move on.)

But in December, with clients asking me to help them with Vines and Instagram campaigns, not to mention a toddler who needed a fair amount of photographing, I decided to bite the bullet and get myself an iPhone 5S.

And you know what? I love it. I don’t run a million fancy apps or run my business on it or anything. But the screen is beautiful, it’s easy to use, everything seems to work together, the photos and videos are almost as good as my Canon Rebel (as long as you remember to turn on the HDR thing), and even my 2-year-old has so far been unable to break the thing. The keyboard – which was what I’d really thought I’d miss when I gave up the BlackBerry – has been remarkably easy to use.

Emotionally, however – yes, whatever, we all have emotional attachments to certain brands and you know it or you wouldn’t keep buying that ridiculous Godiva chocolate which honest to god kind of sucks even though you’re totally convinced that it’s decadent – I still haven’t forgiven Apple for the iPod showdown in 2007, and I’m secretly rooting for BlackBerry to arise triumphant from the ashes of its demise.

And then I saw this piece of cheese:

I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be the target audience here, and here’s how I know:


1.  Mid-to-late middle-aged sorta-famous musician dude is wearing a leather jacket, to indicate he’s still cool

2.  References made to music. Not that new shit, but, you know, music from when music was rock’n’rolllllll, baby! 

3.  References to Serious Accomplishments (writing books), Serious Responsibilities (raising children), and Serious Business (using a smartphone, but not for Candy Crush 2)

4.  Storytelling, but in a way that doesn’t look like a WordPress site came alive


I am supposed to think, “See, here is a smartphone for adults! Let the kids have their Tumblr-enabled, startup-culture, artisanal-toast-delivered-by-Uber gadgets – I need a real tool for my real business and real responsibilities lifestyle. I’m still cool and creative – I’ve just grown up some, is all.”

(Just in case I haven’t gotten this message sufficiently clearly, BlackBerry explains it in more detail here. With bonus references to Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden for extra street cred.)

Except the whole thing is just one tired trope after another, from the leather jacket to the guitar noodling to the ‘punk was here’ soundbite. Plus – newsflash! – this Duff McKagan guy was in Guns’n’Roses, which was never punk and never cool.  In fact, the only thing I associate with Guns’n’Roses is getting stupid drunk on B52 shots at university pubs circa 1990 and begging the DJ to swap out GnR for some good music, like C&C Music Factory.

In other words, BlackBerry isn’t offering me a whole new concept of myself here, or even giving me a chance to see my middle-aged life in a different way through the lens of their genius product.  They’re handing me every bad stereotype usually associated with aging baby boomers (“If I wear leather jackets and put mousse in my hair, no one will notice I’m trying too hard!”), and trying to tell me it’s something I want.

Conclusion?  I went into this ad feeling a bit sorry for BlackBerry, and hoping they could get their act together. Having seen it, I feel like if this is an indication of their ability to think creatively, it’s no wonder they’re tanking.

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