HTC’s launch of the One A9 has caught the attention of many. The company insists that the latest mid-tier device isn’t an iPhone copy, despite the fact that — from almost every angle — it looks like one. Having spent time with it, we agree in many ways. Even if it is, the very fact it runs Android 6.0 is a big enough differentiating factor for many consumers. Still, the Taiwanese manufacturer isn’t helping itself by releasing its latest advertising campaign.

The latest full length ad, named ‘Be Brilliant’ has a clear message: Be Different. Sound familiar?

The video tells you that, in this ‘Big Brother’ world where everything is the same, you should aspire to be unique, be loud, be inspired, be free and be brilliant. However, the message bares a striking resemblance to famous 1984 ad produced by Apple for the Macintosh back in the 80s…just like the phone resembles the iPhone.

With several purposeful shots showing the main character kicking apple’s there’s a not-so-subtle suggestion that Apple is the new normal. Thirty years ago,  IBM was ‘Big Brother’, and Apple was the rebel company doing things differently. Now — with the iPhone being the most popular smartphone model on the market — the tables have turned. The iPhone is the new ‘norm’ in many ways, and is what the HTC rebel in the video is going against.

The phone is an OS away from being a direct iPhone copy, and the ad is a hammer’s throw away from being a copy of one of the most iconic ads of all time. There’s one rebel, running against a sea of uniformed, grey emotionless characters. Unlike the Apple commercial, more rebels join the race to become free. As a reminder, here’s Apple’s 1984 commercial:

HTC isn’t the only Android OEM to use the 1984 Orwellian theme to advertise its products. Motorola made a tablet commercial a few years ago with direct references to George Orwell’s book.

Clearly then, ‘be unique’ and ‘go against the flow’ are strong advertising messages. They say more about who you can be as a person or what your identity is than they do about the actual products being sold. Apple’s 1984 commercial didn’t include a single reference to the Macintosh it was selling. It didn’t show what the machine looks like, or what it can do. It just said “we’re making something amazing and unique, and you’re going to want it”. HTC and Motorola departed from that tactic, but the message is exactly the same, as is the setting in which the story is told.

HTC is trying to show that it’s unique and doing things differently. Ironically, it’s doing that by adopting a widely-used message and releasing a product that closely resembles an iPhone.

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