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HTC recruits Robert Downey Jr. to fight Samsung

  • Iron Man

    Robert Downey Jr. is back as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, in "Iron Man 2."Francois Duhamel

  • Iron Man 2

    The iron-clad hero pictured in a scene from 'Iron Man 2.'Industrial Light & Magic

  • RobertDowneyJrHTC-670x353

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. 

MORE: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. HTC One

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 board room, 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 will also be hosting a word randomizer on HTC.com 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 its 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 the celebrity can steal some of Samsung's thunder.