EBay Says Ink Pens are So ’16th Century’

Have you seen the new eBay commercial about the guy and his ink pen?

Apparently, eBay is trying to reinvent itself – less of a used goods auction site, more of a shiny new things marketplace – with an advertising campaign that makes fun of, among other “old” things, ink pens and the people who use them.

Ebay Logo 1

The company recently began running a TV commercial called “Left Out” in which a guy named Pete shows up to a company meeting with, gasp, a pen and notepad instead of a tablet computer. When the boss asks Pete if he forgot his device, a woman at the table mocks him by saying, “Me Pete! Me use pen!”

Editors Note, unfortunately, eBay have removed the video from YouTube

An embarrassed Pete quickly uses his smartphone to buy himself a tablet…just before his obsolete ink pen bursts with a bright blue splash all over his white shirt.

The 30-second commercial ends with eBay’s new tagline, “When it’s on your mind, it’s on eBay.” It’s part of a series of ads targeting people who shop and buy using smartphones, which is a $4 billion-plus segment of the company’s market, according to USA Today.

You know what’s funny, though?

The anti-pen commercial does not appear to be going over well with viewers. It has has racked up more than 8,500 dislikes on YouTube, compared to a measly 320 likes. Whether those dislikes are from pen users is hard to tell, since very few of them are posting comments on the video.

The popular advertising blog Copyranter weighed in on the ad soon after it was posted to YouTube, calling it “universally despised.” As one commenter on the site put it, “Yes, please, I would love to spend $500 on a gadget for note taking so that I can replace my $1.99 pen and paper combo. My blood pressure goes up every time I see this commercial.”

When you think about it, the commercial doesn’t even make sense. Pete is a hopeless relic because he uses a pen, right? But then he uses his smartphone to order his new tablet.

Gosh, as we all know, there’s no such thing as someone who uses pens and gadgets. If you use a pen, don’t you also wear tri-corner hats, cook on a wood-burning stove and drive a horse and buggy? Surely pen users have never even heard of them new-fangled electric devices!

Another funny thing: The pen market is still alive and thriving, even if eBay thinks otherwise.

Earlier this year, research firm GIA estimated the global market for writing instruments at US$19.4 billion by 2015, with strong growth projected in Asia, South America and the Middle East, along with the usual healthy sales in the US and Europe.

Heck, even eBay had more than 100 pages of pens for sale this morning, just in the Office Supplies category.

So, this new spot gets a D minus from us. How about you?

Photo of author

Peter Warrior: Pen & Pencil Expert

With nearly a decade of experience in the pen industry, I successfully ran an online pen business for 9 years. My deep-rooted passion for pens and pencils led me to become a part-time blogger, where I've dedicated myself to sharing the wealth of knowledge I've amassed over the years. I'm a firm believer in the power of the written word, as echoed by Malcolm Forbes: "Putting pen to paper lights more fire than matches ever will." My expertise is not just rooted in business, but in the genuine appreciation and understanding of the art of writing instruments.

7 thoughts on “EBay Says Ink Pens are So ’16th Century’”

  1. Heh. It’s hilarious how many people are offended at this ad. Condescending and obnoxious – it’s supposed to be. The commercial pokes fun at the need to be like the rest of the group and have the shiny new toy. Pete relents to peer pressure and his pen rewards his selling out by bursting in his pocket.

    That’s how I interpreted it.

  2. I found the ad especially condescending and very obnoxious. I’m surprised EBAY has not pulled the ad and provided an apology in light of the near universal hatred of the commercial. One line in the ad that really draws peoples ire is the “me pete, me use pen”.

  3. I’m so glad to see I’m not the only one who loathes this ad. It makes me so angry every time I see it. Thanks for posting this – I’m going to go over and leave another dislike!

  4. Glad to see I am not the only one who hates that commercial. I use pen and paper just fine for notetaking at meetings. And while I have a blog and write online, guess what? I also keep a personal journal, as in the paper kind, and I write on it with a pen. I found the ad to be condescending, and a little obnoxious.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  5. Comments on that video need to be approved first so that’s why the dislikes show but comments simply get discarded.

    I tried to comment, it just says “Comment Pending Approval!” and grays out.

  6. I’ve not seen this ad (I don’t have a TV – shock horror!) but I think it would make me angry too. Maybe ebay should ban the sale of these mediaeval implements they obviously dislike.

    Pens and Paper will always be how I choose to sort my ideas and take notes – simple and expressive, personal and powerful – The pen is mightier than the tablet computer.


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