The Top 3 Problems of Universal’s “Best Vacation Ever” Ad

Tell me if this ad sounds familiar: A brooding teenager is on vacation with the family. Instead of paying attention and engaging with everyone, the teen is always focused on their smart phone. The music bed is a soft and slightly melancholic piano tune. As you watch you get kind of annoyed. You think to yourself, “Yep. Typical teenager.” Then there’s the poignant twist at the end. The teen was actually documenting the vacation with their phone. It’s revealed at the end when they show what they’ve created. Warm fuzzies melt your annoyance away.

If the ad you were thinking of was Apple’s now famous “Misunderstood” Christmas 2013 ad for the iPhone 5, you would be in-correctamundo. I was actually talking about Universal’s “Best Vacation Ever” ad that came out just last month. Instead of a brooding, disengaged teen boy, Universal’s ad has a brooding, disengaged teen girl.

There are three key issues with this ad:

  1. Too Dead On. The most obvious issue is that it’s too much like Apple’s ad. Apparently the idea and planning for this ad went further back into the year. So it’s not that Universal copied Apple, it’s just an unfortunate coincidence. I actually believe that. But once Apple’s ad aired, the powers-that-be at Universal should’ve pulled the plug on it. Yes, it may have meant throwing money down the drain. But it’s better than throwing good money after bad. Spending the extra ad money on actually airing this ad was a waste.
  2. It Pales in Comparison. Frankly, it’s not nearly as powerful or well executed as Apple’s ad. The acting isn’t terrible, but it’s not that great (for what is a national ad campaign). The story is kind of silly too. So this dad is looking at his daughter throughout the day with this look like, “Oh, come on dear, be engaged. Why are you on your phone dearest daughter of mine. Enjoy our time.” Really? The mom at the end says to him, “And you said ‘no phones.'” If he really gave that edict and the daughter was spending the day seemingly texting or Facebooking friends (which is what teens do when they’re on a phone like that), he’d be like “Girl, if you don’t put that freaking phone away, I’m gonna slap you upside the head and ground you for a week!” Well. He might not have used those words, but it would have been something to that effect. Trust me. I know first hand. (And what’s up with dad using a point-and-shoot. The mom has a smart phone. The daughter even has a smart phone. But the dad pulls out his 2004 digital point-and-shoot? Do people still use those anymore?)
  3. It’s Off-Brand. But by far THE most egregious crime this ad commits is being off-brand. It comes off as a commercial for the phone, not Universal. There’s no connection between the twist and the benefit of the brand (I write more about this in my post about what makes an effective commercial). In fact, the way I heard about this was a colleague asking me, “Hey, have you seen that Android commercial that is a total rip-off of Apple’s “Misunderstood’?” I searched the internet trying to find this Android commercial and couldn’t. He finally found the video and sent me the link. No wonder I couldn’t find the Android commercial. It was a commercial for Universal Orlando.

I won’t get into whether you think Apple’s ad was a sad commentary on the state of personal engagement and technology. Maybe it was. I’ll save that discussion for another post.But there’s no denying it was effective in its execution and benefit communication.

Here are the two ads. What are your thoughts?

Here’s Apple’s Ad:

Here’s the Android ad. Oops. I mean Universal’s Ad: