Go-Go-Gadget: Why Online Ads Are In Love With Tech

As far as online culture is concerned, there’s no vast difference between pop culture and tech culture. For every blog discussing details from the Star Wars set or what Jaden Smith said this week, you’ll find just as many poring over new smartphone specs or the latest GoPro-based, drone-enabled innovation.

As the latest iPhone is released, it’s clearer than ever that gadgets are their own buzzworthy form of entertainment.

Online advertising has realized this fact, prompting a flurry of spots dedicated to the most outlandish inventions and innovative technology on the market, many of those ranking among the most-shared ads of recent months. There’s no greater example of this than Lexus’ uncanny venture into the dream-come-true world of gadgetry.

Back in 2014, the hopes of 1980’s nostalgists everywhere were raised when a brand named Huvr claimed they had achieved the impossible: creating a working version of the hoverboard from ‘Back To The Future 2’. While years of online skepticism had taught us to proceed with caution, the production values and celebrity endorsements seemed encouraging.  However, almost immediately online pranksters Funny Or Die took responsibility for the hoax and the dream was shattered. That is, until the plucky automobile manufacturer decided to address the problem of a magically floating skateboard, this time for real.

The resulting video, released in early August, has been shared over a quarter of a million times and made a tremendous splash online. It’s perfectly clear why. Watching Lexus’ working hoverboard zip around a skatepark, the ad produces a sense of childlike sense of wonder, meanwhile forcing you to ask just how they pulled it off. We didn’t have to wait long to find out, as the brand released an equally fascinating behind-the-scenes video, detailing the process behind creating the miraculous gadget.

Whether you’re a die-hard Marty McFly fan or not, it’s the ‘WTF’ factor that drove the enthusiastic sharing of Lexus’ hoverboard. The same can be said of the monstrously successful ‘Pipe Dream’ from DC Shoes, an extreme sports extravaganza which similarly pushes conventional transportation to its limit.

Shared over 500,000 times since its release last month, the ad’s depiction of a logic-defying motorbike journey down the Amazon is legitimately stunning watching, partly thanks to its sumptuous production and direction. As stunt rider Robbie Maddison emerges miraculously in slow motion from inside a crashing wave, there’s a real sense that you’re watching something pretty special.

Besides these examples, you can’t throw a stone without hitting some new tech wonder. A gaming car chase made real? Why not. Futuristic unicycles? No problem.

There’s an element of ‘anything is possible’ to this trend that drives the enthusiasm behind it, whether the concept is meant to be altruistic or simply a bit of fun. For example, Microsoft’s demonstration of an innovative new prosthetic arm (admittedly given a bit of Hollywood flavour) was shared over 2 million times thanks to its charming and experimental concept. On the sillier side of things, Pepsi decided to see what happened if it added drones to the most beautiful game. The result is a little silly, a little pointless but also compulsively sharable.

At Unruly, we often emphasize the emotional effect of online advertising, and the way that the best online adverts use sentiment to leave a lasting effect on viewers. Given this, where do these tech-inspired, future-looking adverts fit into this paradigm? The answer seems to be that ads like ‘Hoverboard’ and ‘Pipe Dream’ inspire a sense of amazement that not only lingers with users, but inspires them to share that feeling among their friends. While shock, surprise and sadness are more easily comprehended emotions when it comes to online advertizing, it seems that ingenuity is often just as, if not more, successful.

[pardot-form id=”4616″ title=”Trending Content Sign Up”]