Samsung’s “Ostrich” commercial is a well-crafted metaphor, aimed squarely at inviting the hesitant, technology-timid consumer to embrace the Next Big Thing in home entertainment technology: Virtual Reality.
The genius of the ad lies in its message, one that speaks to a common fear of the imagined isolation of the VR experience, and flips it. Samsung addresses the reluctant user (whose reaction may be to hide his head in the sand rather than to adjust to yet another new technology) and asserts that VR does not disconnect you from reality, rather that it can inspire and enhance your experience in the real world.
The ad opens quietly with the sound of the wind and the chirp of insects. The scene is a field of open brush beneath mountains and sky. An ostrich wanders off from its flock, and discovers a table set for a meal on the back deck of a house. Poking around for food, he gets his beak stuck in something. He recoils abruptly to find himself now wearing VR glasses.
Cut to the ostrich’s vision inside the glasses, a vast blanket of clouds around and below him (an unknown sensation, as ostriches do not fly.) The moment is punctuated perfectly as Elton John’s “Rocket Man” begins to play.
A close-up on the ostrich’s widening pupil reflecting the clouds confirms the opening of his world. He is the reluctant consumer, unwittingly discovering the wonder of yet another technological advance.
With VR glasses on, he flaps his wings and begins to run. He stumbles, he falls, his flock watches. Through the night he persists and fails and by morning, having shed the glasses, he is ready to try to attempt the impossible: flight. Close-ups build the tension, as does a subtle shot of the ostrich gulping.
We don’t actually see him fly (perhaps the CGI involved would be too distracting.) Instead, what is implied is more grand. The flock runs after the ostrich’s shadow as he flies away into the endless horizon ahead.
The commercial’s final message: “We make what can’t be made, so you can do what can’t be done” is capped off by the campaign’s hashtag: #DoWhatYouCant.
Samsung asks us not to fear the technological future, but embrace it.
Jennifer Larsen, Korn Hynes