Commentary

Philips' Elvis Act Not Ready For the Stage

I’m big on the quantified-self thing, at least when it involves the accumulation/interpretation of information that won’t prompt self-reassessment. I don’t track my caloric intake, for example, for fear that it will temper my enjoyment of Nacho Beef Croissant-adillas or trigger the annulment of my life-insurance coverage.

But I like capturing actionable (or not) bits of personal effluvia for posterity, just because I can. It warms me to know that, on March 26, 2012, I ran 4.11 miles at the snail-ascending-a-waterslide pace of 7:51/mile. Can you put a price tag on the ability to summon such information on a moment’s notice? I can: Zero, which is what I paid for the tracker app. I have every confidence that the app-maker gifted me this technology out of pure generosity, not so that he/she can harvest and monetize my data and, perhaps, my organs.

So yeah, I can be talked into most anything health-tech-related. What I cannot abide, however, is the presentation of such technology as anything more than the smallest piece of the healthy-lifestyle puzzle. Which brings me to today’s brand video, in which an would-be Elvis impersonator achieves personal and physiological salvation with a big assist from his Philips Health Watch.

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That oversimplifies it, so here’s the longer version: “A Little More Action” introduces us to Keith Hart, the aforementioned Elvis impersonator (excuse me, “aspiring Elvis tribute artist”). He’s slightly heavyset, which seems less of an obstacle to his career ambitions than does his unstable singing voice. He also appears to lack self-confidence, a trait which endears him on a personal level but renders him something less than a compelling subject.

To get him up to literal and figurative speed, Hart is paired with an A-list Elvis tribute artist, Dean Z, who mentors him in advance of a public performance. Along the way, Hart regains control over his health… which improves slightly over the course of the five-week training regimen, thanks in part to mind-blowingly insightful prompts (“time to move”) given by the miracle watch.

The idea underlying “A Little More Action” is one that I buy into with every iota of my being: Mental and physical wellness are not separable. In my experience - and I am speaking solely for myself and nobody else and oh boy I’m totally gonna fall into the middle-aged-white-guy trap of assuming some commonality between my beliefs and ones possessed by people who are not me aren’t I? no no no no - you can’t have one without the other.

That’s how I would’ve approached this video: Drawing more of a direct connection between Hart’s unease with his fitness and his seeming personal unrest. The watch plays a key supporting role in tracking the subsequent transformation. Boom.

Philips has other ideas. The clip kicks off with one of those Big Pronouncements that are catnip to marketers: “The legend of Elvis Presley - it lives on, in the most unlikely of places.” That, alas, sets expectations that aren’t met. I hear “the most unlikely of places,” I think “research station in Antarctica” or “charm school on the Upper East Side.” A few seconds later, when I meet Hart - a clear fan with more than a passing physical resemblance to Elvis - my attention is already waning.

And so it begins. I don’t buy that a program lasting a mere five weeks can have the restorative effect “A Little More Action” assigns to it. I don’t buy the paid-for enthusiasm of the audience at Hart’s debut performance. And I really, really, really don’t buy the montage-like presentation of Hart’s progression as a performer. In terms of flow and inspirationalismness, it’s less Rocky III than Wet Hot American Summer or Team America: World Police.

The Philips watch gets lost amid the clamor, even as the data it collects (steps, heart rate, etc.) are flashed in the bottom-right-hand corner of the screen. What’s left is an obvious, underfueled empowerment exercise, which concludes, shockingly, with its subject empowered. Like I need an extra gadget around my wrist for any of this?

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