jumping the horn

Samsung ad fail: IT security is hardly chill, bro

February 25, 2013
February 25, 2013

Samsung USA hoped to capitalize on millions of eyeballs on last night’s Oscars by continuing a recent campaign for its growing family of Galaxy smartphones, phablets and tablets. Situated in the (very, very brogrammer) office of a fictional game developer, the newest ad showed the development team sitting down with famed Goth director Tim Burton to kick some ideas around for a new game, “Unicorn Apocalypse,” relying heavily on their personal Galaxy devices to do business. Underneath the strained hipster dialog and over-the-top madhouse millennial office scenery was a buttoned-down message: your employees can have it all, without compromising IT security. Here’s a replay:

It’s clear what Samsung wants to do—the iPhone knocked a hole in corporate device policies, aided by the progressive decay of Blackberry as a go-to business device, and Samsung wants some of that office space action. Recent data suggest BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has quickly moved from a fringe phenomenon to a majority behavior as workers have gotten smartphoned-up in their personal lives. That kind of shift, combined with a need to dump information-technology costs wherever possible, has created an opportunity for phone and tablet makers to grab market share and entrench themselves.

I own two Samsung devices, and they are great pieces of tech, but the messages wrapped up in the ad campaign seem to add to, not clarify, the confusion faced by IT managers increasingly under assault with OPG (other people’s gear). Despite having new applications on its devices that can keep work and play separate, how can it be that safe if everyone is making “shoot from the hip” decisions with no adults running the show? “Crazy as the New Normal” seems like an odd theme on which to pitch security. Millennial-centered startups may be darlings of the business media, but —despite Google’s ping-pong tables and free lattes—the vast majority of American workers don’t live that experience themselves day-to-day.

The ads also seem to fly in the face of a couple of other stories in the news at the moment—Marissa Mayer’s highly publicized decision at Yahoo last week to bring telecommuters back inside the purple fortress and scary headlines about rampant hacking from China and elsewhere, hitting soft targets of US companies. While US business culture broadly has become far more relaxed than in previous decades (how itchy do you get watching any episode of Mad Men set in hot New York summertime?), a swing back toward conservatism has been forecast for some time. The irony in “Unicorn Apocalypse” may be that irony, at least selling security against it in a worried economy, may be getting played out.

You can follow Scott on Twitter at @changeist. We welcome your comments atideas@qz.com

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