Sep 12

Whew! Apple shines again in new iPhone ads

Did you hear that? That was the sound of millions of Apple customers watching the new iPhone 5 ads and together breathing a huge sigh of relief.

After soiling its nest with the short-lived Genius campaign, Apple has created the best iPhone commercials since … well, since iPhone.

While previous years’ ads have been good enough to keep the natives happy, they never really rose to the “magical” level.

The celebrity ads for Siri were probably the first to go someplace new — even if that place was troublesome for a lot of people.

With these iPhone 5 ads, Apple breathes new life into the product demo genre, and that’s not an easy trick. Thanks to some good old-fashioned creativity, all the elements feel fresh.

The visual treatment appeals on a human level without resorting to scenes of babies, expectant parents or beaming grandparents. In the Cheese spot (at the end of this article), we see some seriously adorable kids lining up for a group photo. It rates very high on the cute-meter, but does so with sophistication.

The soundtrack is very Apple, giving all the spots a light and airy mood.

But two major components of these commercials really make them shine: the voice and the scripts.

Apple’s previous voice, Peter Coyote, was liked by many. Personally, I found him to be somewhat conventional. Whenever I heard his voice, it felt like a company was talking to me.

These ads are different. Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) gives a natural performance. When I hear his voice, I feel like a human being is talking to me.

Jeff brings a personality to these ads. More important, he brings a personality that fits Apple perfectly: intelligent, friendly and a little quirky. The creative team did a great job of directing him.

Jeff is 95% of what makes this campaign feel fresh and new, so it was a stroke of genius to recruit him. Hopefully he’s locked in for many ads to come.

Of course you can’t separate the voice from the words. Unlike the Genius spots that tried so hard to be funny, these scripts “just work.” They capture Apple’s intelligent wit. They not only make their point — they make you smile.

In the aftermath of the Genius campaign, I noted that it wasn’t time to panic. Apple is only human (something you can’t say for a lot of advertisers), and even the most talented people sometimes make mistakes. If Apple had stumbled twice in a row with its advertising, I would have been concerned.

But it didn’t.

This new campaign is beautifully produced and a pleasure to watch. It sends exactly the right message — not just about the products, but about the company that creates them.

If you haven’t seen them already, here are the three other spots in this wave of commercials. Two more for iPhone 5 and one for EarPods.




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  • “More like general guidelines.”

    Spot on, love these.

  • Ken, I couldn’t agree with you more!!! Bravo to Apple, and bravo to you for this wonderful & accurate analysis!! :)

  • CB

    I agree that the directing of Jeff is really good: good inflection of voice and good timing.

  • Pete

    No to fond of the voice over, but I really smiled due to the musical ending of the ad, that was brilliant.

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  • I also predicted this, at the time of the “Genius” ads, on your blog, pointing out how the original iPhone “Man on a street” ads were a flop, and predicting that the next set would be really good…. these even exceed my expectations. Especially the panorama one— best product demo in an ad ever!

  • The ads aren’t that bad. I liked the siri commercials.

  • chris

    “Ears are weird.” Goddamn, that’s a great first line. These spots are perfect. Take one feature, make it the most important feature. Perfectly executed. Now about those maps…

  • His voice reminds me a bit of the Jeff Goldblum era of Apple ads, but the visuals have improved since then. You’re right, there’s a quirkiness to his voice.

    Just yesterday, I was thinking back to when I used to teach branding seminars and how I always put Apple under the column of ‘quirky,’ along with VW and a few others. I just realized they haven’t seemed so quirky in quite a few years—probably since the iMac G4 was replaced. Not that it’s a bad thing. I think their quirkiness was replaced with other positive attributes; a refined elegance, minimalist perfectionism. It certainly hasn’t hurt their balance book. I do miss some of their quirkier, more surprising designs, though.

    I still buy the Harman/Kardon SoundSticks (which were designed by Apple’s designers) and replace them with the same design whenever they eventually wear out, because they remind me of a more exuberant, ‘quirky’ Apple.

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  • nuthinking

    These ads look way better than the genious ones, but I am not entirely sure they are at the standard Apple could deliver. Few questions bounce in my head…

    Is the thumb ad too defensive?
    Is the use case shown in the panoramic ad common enough?
    Isn’t obvious that technology makes things smaller? Ok, this is inline with their fastest, best iphone approach…
    Was really needed an ad for their (cheap) earphones?

  • qka

    If Apple didn’t push the bounds, we’d still be using computers with command lines, listening to CDs on a Discman, and using mobile phones with physical keyboards.

    So the Siri ads pushed the bounds in ways that some longtime Apple followers didn’t like. And maybe the “Genius” ads were too “normal”. The argument can be made that these latest ads are regressing to the mean, returning Apple’s stock ad formula – albeit a very good formula.

    Apple, I think we would agree, by their very nature, has to push the bounds. The same has to go for their advertising.

    Here’s To The Crazy Ones. … Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world – are the ones who DO !

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  • Great new ads. Cute, cheeky, to the point, not technical but humanly emotional and highlighting specific strengths without making fun of the competition or their customers. Most other tech companies don’t know how to do this. It is hard work to be ‘simple’. :-)

  • Talking of ads, anyone seen the new ‘Bounce’ ad for the latest iPods? Interested to hear people’s take. Personally, I think the ad’s frenzied pace and quick fire editing somewhat distracts from the product and actually comes off more like a graduate student’s 3D Max showreel.

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