Talking to CMO Frank Boulben about BlackBerry's first-ever Super Bowl commercial!
Talking to Frank Boulben about BlackBerry's Super Bowl commercial via BBM Video Chat

As I hit publish on this article, approximately 111 million people have just witnessed BlackBerry's first ever Super Bowl commercial. Opinions will surely vary, but personally I feel it was a solid way for BlackBerry to introduce the BlackBerry Z10 to the U.S. market. Stepping beyond the standard product demo type of ad we'd normally expect from BlackBerry, the Super Bowl placement took a more playful and cinematic approach. That's never a bad thing for a Super Bowl audience that's looking to be entertained.

The timing of the Super Bowl commercial created a challenge for BlackBerry. BlackBerry's feature-focused Keep Moving marketing campaign will kick off in Canada tomorrow and roll out globally from there, but with the Z10 not available from carriers in the U.S. until March, the company decided to produce a distinct commercial outside of the Keep Moving theme specifically for the Super Bowl. 

5 hours before kick-off, I had the privilege to get an early look at BlackBerry's Super Bowl and Keep Moving ad spots and discuss them with BlackBerry's Chief Marketing Officer, Frank Boulben. Frank is in New Orleans to attend the Super Bowl in person (when you spend the big bucks on an ad the networks invite you), but in true BlackBerry fashion I brought him into CrackBerry HQ for the interview thanks to the power of BBM Video Chat. Between our two Z10's running on Rogers LTE and Verizon LTE, the video quality was spectacular.


Production Details 

Creative Agency: The BlackBerry 10 Super Bowl spot was created by AMV BBDO
Production: The commercial was shot on a back lot in Los Angeles over the course of three days, capturing as much in-camera content as possible. This includes the jack-knifing truck and puff of smoke. Special effects also played a large role, particularly in the elephant legs, flames and duckies scenes.
Direction: Peter Thwaites served as Director for the commercial
Music: "Who Knows" by Marion Black 


As BlackBerry went to work on producing their first-ever Super Bowl ad, they had two ojectives. The first was to signal that BlackBerry is back. While the messaging here was not overly aggressive (unlike this fake BlackBerry Super Bowl commercial), I think it successfully accomplished that mission. Heck, the fact that BlackBerry chose to do a Super Bowl commercial checks that objective off the list. Showing off the new Z10 takes care of the rest - clearly it's a new BlackBerry experience. If the American retail launch was a bit closer, maybe we would have seen a more agressive "Back in Black"-style ad. 

The second objective was to get across that the BlackBerry Z10 is worth checking out. Since the Super Bowl ad is showing you things the Z10 can't do, it creates a strong call to action to check out what the new phone can do. With no devices in store to direct customers to yet, the call to action at the end of the spot directs people to BlackBerry has done a great job with this website (especially when visiting from a desktop computer). It's not your typical product site detailing specs, but offers an experience-based walk through of the Z10, showing it in action in a variety of real world usage cases. 

I asked Frank about the decision to focus on the Z10 in the ad rather than focusing on the relaunch of the BlackBerry 10 platform, and Frank made it clear that was an easy decision. 30 seconds is not a lot of time to get a message across. People buy products, not platforms, so focusing on the new Z10 was key. Marketing BlackBerry 10 would not have the same ROI attached to it. 

Following the Super Bowl, BlackBerry will continue to focus in the U.S. on driving customers to the website. As the American release nears, you'll see things ramp up even more, but the BlackBerry Super Bowl commercial truly marks the beginning of BlackBerry's new ad campaigns around BlackBerry 10 and the Z10.

As for the cost of the new ad and the Super Bowl spot, Frank said that's not something BlackBerry is disclosing. Rest assured, it wasn't cheap.  

From commercial to getting a Z10 in your hands

I asked Frank what message I should pass on to all of our impatient U.S.-based CrackBerry readers who don't want to wait and just want to buy the Z10 right now. Frank was on the ball with an instant response - he joked that you can buy the Z10 right now on eBay for between $1000 and $2200!

Frank suggested that everybody be sure to pre-register for the Z10 with their carriers, and as the carriers shift from pre-registration to pre-ordering to be quick on the uptake there. That's the best guarantee for getting your Z10 as soon as possible. Frank empathized with our CrackBerry readers who don't want to wait a minute longer than they have to to get their hands on the Z10.


Following the Super Bowl commercial, tomorrow BlackBerry will kick off its new Keep Moving campaign. This is a global campaign spanning all forms off media - tv, print, online, billboards - and will initially start in Canada, head to Europe and expand from there.

Compared to the Super Bowl commercial, the Keep Moving ads will put more of a focus on the key features of BlackBerry 10, illustrating Flow as you use different features of the devices to move seamlessly from one facet of life to another. 

I also previewed the first full Keep Moving spot which clocked in at 60 seconds, but there will be 30-second and 20-second versions as well. The full spot focuses on all of the new major features in BlackBerry 10, like the touchscreen keyboard, TimeShift camera, Hub and BlackBerry Balance. The shorter versions will highlight fewer features. 

The Keep Moving ad I previewed follows a linear Flow from left to right with people doing LOTS of different things. Frank said the print and online ads would use similar imagery to the video spot.


BlackBerry has felt like a new company to me since the day Thorsten Heins took the reins as CEO. I'm sure that sentiment resonates not only with me, but also with the members of CrackBerry Nation.

With this week's official launch of BlackBerry 10, the Z10 hitting stores and now the Super Bowl commercial and ramp up of the Keep Moving campaign, the message that this is a new BlackBerry is going global.

Whether you love the Super Bowl ad or hate it, I'm really glad BlackBerry chose to do one. To many, BlackBerry was out of the smartphone game. Buying an ad at the Super Bowl is a symbolic gesture that says there back in the game, in a big way!  

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