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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

August 12, 2013 at 12:01 AM

HTC taps Robert Downey Jr. for rebranding plan

T-Mobile spokesmodel Carly has some competition.

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Robert Downey Jr. is making his debut this week as the new brand ambassador HTC, the Taiwanese phone maker with its U.S. headquarters across the freeway from T-Mobile’s base in Bellevue.

Despite its well-received phones, HTC’s been struggling to compete against Samsung with its Android models and has undergone some organizational churn.

Downey Jr. is part of a rebranding campaign designed to raise the company’s profile, with a tone acknowledging that it’s time for a fresh start.

After teasing its deal with the actor through video snippets, HTC this week will begin airing several commercials that he helped the company create.

“We really put him in position of having creative control and injecting a lot of his own unique personality into the campaign,” HTC spokesman Tom Harlin said.

Harlin wouldn’t disclose what HTC is paying the actor but said it’s a two-year contract. Top executives at HTC pursued Downey Jr. because he’s widely known globally, they like his irreverent personality and his personal story fits with the theme of “change” in HTC’s campaign.

The ads are unique, to put it mildly.

One features Downey Jr. arriving by helicopter for a board meeting, then moves on to a sequence with a foil-covered sailboat and then to a car wash staffed by green-haired trolls. It may be the weirdest ad since Microsoft’s spots featuring Jerry Seinfeld eating churros with Bill Gates.

“Some are going to love it, others are going to have the opposite reaction, but regardless we think it’s going to create a lot of talk value,” Harlin said.

Definitely.

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