HTC Recruits Robert Downey Jr. to Fight Samsung

To beat Samsung in the smartphone wars, HTC could probably use the combination of Iron Man's firepower and Sherlock Holmes' cunning. So it's fitting that the company has tapped Robert Downey Jr. for a reportedly huge $1 billion branding attack. The new branding initiative focuses on Change, as in Here's to Change, and the company says the actor is helping to shape the ad campaign's creative direction.

After nabbing nearly 11 percent of the smartphone market back in 2011, today HTC is barely a blip. IDC lumps HTC in an Others category behind Samsung, Apple, LG, Lenovo, and  ZTE. And while the HTC One is an excellent flagship Android phone, the brand just isn't as well known as Samsung, which now commands nearly a third of all smartphone sales. That's where Downey Jr. comes in. 

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According to Tom Harlin, director of communication in North America for HTC, the star saw the same challenges that the company's marketing execs do. "He told us 'You've got a great product, but who is HTC and how do you make sure people know who you are?'" Harlin said. 

To that end, HTC will reveal a new ad August 15th, which will be the first in a series of initiatives designed to get consumers to think about the many possible combinations of the Here's to Change acronymn. For example, in the 15-second teaser posted on YouTube, Downey Jr. opens an envelope in a a boardroom, holds a piece of paper up to his head and says "Humongous Tinfoil Catamaran".

The spot is definitely odd, but that's the point. "We hope people say 'Was that Robert Downey Jr. and was he just at a troll car wash? I've got to go see what HTC is.'"


HTC is also hosting a word randomizer on that consumers can use to play up the Here's to Change messaging. After the initial phase, HTC will follow up with a series of spots that highlight features unique to its One line, including the BlinkFeed interface and BoomSound speakers.  

Given the mixed track record of celebrity tech endorsements, it remains to be seen whether Robert Downey Jr. will be able to move the needle for HTC. But with both the HTC One mini and the rumored big-screen HTC Max on the horizon, the company very much hopes that he can steal some of Samsung's thunder.

Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.