Apr 10

The under-hyping of iPad

iPad ad in Wednesday's NY Times (excuse the bleed-through from the page behind)

Many of our fellow humans were underwhelmed after the iPad launch in January. Overall, they thought it was just too over-hyped.

Personally, I thought iPad was a very big deal. My only lament was that the launch event didn’t feel like a very big deal. It just didn’t seem like we’d witnessed a major moment in history. This isn’t a technology thing, it’s a marketing thing.

Not the end of the world, I figured. Surely things would change once the advertising kicks in. Being one of the most important launches in the history of Apple, something very special must be just around the corner.

Instead, it seems like the over-hype is being followed by under-hype.

The commercial that ran on the Academy Awards was a variant of the iPhone ads we’ve been seeing for three years. And in yesterday’s NY Times, Apple ran a full-page ad for iPad: just one word over the image of someone using iPad to view a photo collection.

If there’s a revolution in here, it’s pretty well hidden.

Looking at this ad, I wondered where the other half was. Maybe there was supposed to be an opposite page, a grid of six iPads featuring one seductive app after another. Or maybe the headline fell off. That one witty Apple line that makes us smile as it captures the importance of the moment. Hell, where’s the word “magic” when we need it?

It strikes me as odd, because iPad already does amazing things, and it will only become more amazing with the inevitable flood of imaginative apps to come. It’s a story of almost unbelievable magnitude — being doled out by the spoonful.

Obviously, there is boldness in buying a large space and keeping it so minimalist. I’m a huge fan of elegance and clarity. I just want to see people raising their eyebrows, ripping out the page and tweeting “cool Apple ad!”

I’ll cross my fingers that this is the first of 20 such ads, and equivalent billboards will be springing up everywhere. But a lot of people (like yesterday’s NY Times readers) only see what’s in front of them. And I’m pretty sure this story is a bit bigger than a photo gallery.

[Update 4.8.10 5:50pm EDT] Okay, more iPad ad sightings are now coming in. Here we have posters for Mail, iBooks and Safari. I’m assuming many different apps will be featured in many locations, which will make the launch feel more like an event. The no-copy approach works well in posters — but I do miss the Apple wit.

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  • It’s like when Obama was being pressured to be more aggressive against Hillary during the primaries. People started to doubt his toughness.

    He had a quote that said something like “I’m from Chicago. I thought being tough meant not having to prove it all the time.”

    iPad has already been trumpeted from every mountaintop. I think they’re consciously taking it slow for now. They’ll kick it up a notch if they need to (no one does arrogant chic better) but I don’t think they’ll need to.

  • sfmitch

    I am pretty surprised at the iPad advertising.

    The TV ad (weird that this is about a single ad) is paced WAY too quick. This is not an iPod Touch being sold to teens (MTV style rapid images are fine for teens but for older folks, not so much). I think the TV ads should be introducing the iPad to people as if it is a new product.

  • ken segall

    Totally agree that iPad opens the door to a lot of new customers, and that Apple should treat it as a proper launch — not just a new breed iPod or iPhone. It’s a new whole new idea. I already ragged on the TV ad when it first appeared, and totally agree with you there too. No one could possibly appreciate the things it can do when they go by that fast. It’s a festival of agreement!

  • qka

    It has been suggested by some that the iPad is still a rather blank canvas.

    Could it be that instead of “forcing” users thru ads into directions where they might not want to go, Apple is waiting to see where the users take the iPad?

    After the iPhone had been out a while, Apple had a series of TV ads that showed real people using the iPhone to address real needs. In particular, I remember one of an airline pilot who’s flight was being held from departure because of weather. Using a weather radar website (I think these ads were before apps), he saw the problem weather had moved off, and was able to get cleared for departure ahead of the other planes being held.

    Real use stories resonate! That is what will bring the buyers.

  • Since Apple can’t meet demand, isn’t all advertising at this point waisted money?

    Sell it it first to us early adopters in the non-USA, then worry about the housewives!

  • MA

    I am a longtime Apple user, fan, and advocate who has grown tired seeing all these photos of iPads being used by people in reclining positions. I understand the message is, “Look how easy it is.” But for me the admission is this is the only way to use one of these things comfortably. Ever try using iPad standing up? Awkward. Btw: the whole “anti-Flash” thing smells like a way to drive sales to iTunes. Poor Adobe. Did you read their rebuttal to Steve Job’s iPad pitch?