Poolside Girl in Kindle Ad Plunges a Nation Into Civil War

Last Updated Mar 1, 2011 9:26 AM EST

Amazon (AMZN)'s new ad for the Kindle bookreader -- featuring a woman in a black bikini who tells the man next to her at a pool that she paid more for her sunglasses -- has had nearly 1 million views in two days on YouTube in part, it seems, because the actress's performance has sharply divided the TV-watching nation against itself.
Previous examples of this quirky phenomenon include ads for the Palm Pre featuring a breathy, surreal monologue by Tamara Hope; Esurance's secret agent, Erin; and commercials for eHarmony with bland, yuppie fashion-store-owner TanyaLee. (Let's hope commercial hatred isn't limited to ads with female endorsers ... oh right, there's always Michael Jordan's Hitler moustache for Hanes.)

Brand managers usually try to avoid polarizing performers in ads. They want actors who rate highly on all dimensions of likeability. And the Kindle ad doesn't seem to be trying to antagonize anyone deliberately.

But it does take a jibe at Apple (AAPL)'s iPad, which is apparently nigh unreadable in bright sunshine. Given Apple's rabid fanbase, even a perceived slight at the iPad was likely to provoke a wave of outrage. But that's not all that's going on here. As David Griner of Adfreak put it:
... the bigger problem is that the spot is simply unlikable. In a polar opposite to the "Mac vs. PC" spots, Apple here comes off as the genial everyman, while the Kindle is represented by a snooty ice queen who brags about her frugality and flaunts her wasteful consumerism.
In the ad, a male schlub struggles to read his unidentified tablet device as he lounges by a sunny pool. (It's obviously an iPad, but, whatever.) He leans over and asks Kindle Girl how she's reading her device in the sun. She takes off a pair of those giant bug-eye sunglasses favored by fashionistas and says to him in a slow, read-my-lips kind of way:
It's a Kindle ... $139 ... I actually paid more for these sunglasses.
That's the whole ad. On paper, it looks forgettable. But consumers are dissecting every second of it online. There are more than 2,000 comments on the ad's YouTube page, and 564 comments on Endgadget. Many of them are too profane to be reproduced here. A high percentage seem to feature the b-word. Here's a Bowdlerized sample:
rosynyc: Ugh I hate the woman in this commercial. Way to make a complete stranger feel horrible about the iPad he just bought. Just answer, "It's a kindle" and go back to your reading. No one cares how much you paid for it or for the gaudy sunglasses you're wearing!

bcostalot10: after this commercial that guy pressed the home button and fucking played games, listened to music, and looked at facebook

can't do that with a book reader
It doesn't appear that Amazon deliberately chose to annoy half of all viewers. (Perhaps it's something to do with the notion of flaunting how much you'll pay for sunglasses while unemployment is nearly 10 percent.) But given the Kindle's underdog status vs. the iPad, earned chatter, even when negative, may draw more attention to the ad than it would otherwise have received.


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