In the old days, if you wanted to deride a competitor's product, you might typically refer to it as a 'boat anchor.' That was back when chunky personal computers were first emerging as the hot new item on the consumer electronics scene, and a useless one might as well at least keep a dinghy at bay.
Several decades later, digital goods have changed tremendously, and so too have the insults.
That's apparent from a series of US national television advertisements aired by Cree, the LED lamp maker. Cree has gotten so down and dirty, so shameless, so bare-knuckled, that it is publicly ridiculing one of its rival's bulbs as a (please look away now if your are squeamish or easily offended, because this pushes the propriety of our family values here at Lux) as a, a, a - ping pong paddle!
'Recently, the market has been inundated with weird shaped bulbs that have supposedly revolutionised the light bulb itself,' says suave and besuited actor Lance Reddick (you might know him as Lieutenant Daniels from The Wire) as he knocks around a table tennis ball.
'The problem? Many of these bulbs aren't actually very good at being light bulbs,' he explains, as he halts play, faces the camera and reveals that his paddle is actually an LED light bulb shaped remarkably like a ping pong paddle (you could also think of it as pancake with a knobby stem).
The paddle is almost certainly Philips' 'SlimStyle' LED bulb (below right), a US product rated at 800 lumens and 10.5 watts, making it a 60-watt incandescent replacement that, yes, resembles something you might find a game room.
None of that re-shaping malarkey for Cree, where a light bulb looks like, well, a light bulb. Or so Cree says.
And in case there's any doubt that a Cree lamp could not physically double as a recreational device, Reddick attempts to serve up a shot with one, only to shank one off the side of the table.
'Terrible ping pong paddle,' he dryly observes. 'Excellent light bulb.'
Coming back to the 'anchor' theme, this is actually the kind of publicity that should help float all boats in the LED business. It's one of several from Cree, many featuring Reddick, that in the big picture promotes the virtues of LEDs over incandescents and compact flourescent lamps (even CFLs are 'obsolete jalopies'), promoting energy savings, longevity ('like a child, this Cree could be in your house for decades and unlike a child, it will pay for itself and save you money and it will never pierce its tongue'), colour rendering (check out what happens to a juicy steak under a CFL bulb), and environmental advantages like the absence of mercury.
They even include a eulogy to Thomas Edison's bulb. (See all these videos below. Some have been running a while in the US but it's time for a broader audience to appreciate them).
The Cree ads join other creative video productions, like Jeff Goldblum's smarmy Hollywood guy for GE, that are helping to get across the LED message in the states.
One word on the ping pong dig, though. You have to admire Philips' flattening design on the SlimStyle. It's purpose: Eliminate the troublesome heat sink that LED bulbs require. LED lamps are indeed a lot more efficient than incandescents, but they still inefficiently give off heat that has to leave fast lest it knock out the actual light source – the light emitting diode itself.
Philips' pancake spreads those chips out around the bulb in a way that naturally dissipates the heat without the need, expense and potential failure of a dedicated sink. It may or may not catch on, but it's a sign of the innovation and experimentation that will help drive the industry forward.
It also brings choice and variety to consumers - generally a good thing in any market – who have the freedom to select from competing products.
The decision is the buyers', who may or may not decide in the end that they would rather be up the Cree without a paddle.
Top photo is a screen grab from Cree video. SlimStyle photo is from Philips.
Never pierce its tongue:
Farewell to Edison's bulb:
Let's go to the video:
- The smart money is on smart lamps (featuring a smarmy Goldblum)
- US Govt: Not all LEDs are created equal. Take it from a zombie