Jun 13

iPhone ads: Apple plays the ubiquity card

A few weeks ago, Apple started running a new commercial for iPhone.

I thought it was a beautiful spot. It’s perfectly produced and acted, hits the right emotional notes and demonstrates how iPhone photography has become deeply ingrained in our culture.

With a second spot, this approach becomes a campaign. The most recent commercial (above) uses the identical structure, this time celebrating our love of music.

We see situations that capture the many ways we interact with music, and then the voiceover comes on to seal the deal: “Every day, more people enjoy their music on the iPhone than any other phone.”

It’s a good sequel to the first ad, which concluded “Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera.”

While Samsung is out there showering us with ads celebrating the new features in the Galaxy S4, Apple isn’t talking about product features at all — other than the fact that iPhone takes pictures and plays music.

Apple’s spots live on a different plane. They say that human-focused technology has a special place in our lives. They say that Apple understands what makes people tick.

But beneath the emotion and the art of them, these spots contain a simple selling message. Almost literally, they say “More people use iPhones, so you should use one too.”

With ads so beautifully crafted, that strategy works.

However, if you’re a fan of Apple, its advertising or marketing in general, it’s interesting to observe that this strategy deviates significantly from past efforts.

Never in Apple’s history has it suggested that you should buy a product because “everyone’s doing it.” Apple has always demonstrated concrete benefits: simplicity, design, elegance and just plain lustworthiness.

It gets even more interesting when you consider that Apple’s decades-long pitch for Macs has been that you should not buy PCs simply because they’re ubiquitous. You should buy a Mac because it’s better.

How things change. Apple is now a world-leading mass marketer, and ubiquity is a positive selling point — even if in the past it was an indicator of mediocrity.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to theorize that Apple has gone this route simply because it can’t just sit there and watch. Samsung is saturating the market worldwide with S4 launch ads, and we’re not likely to see any new product excitement in the iPhone world for a number of months yet.

So in truth, this beautiful campaign is likely a beautiful placeholder.

It goes a long way to making people feel great about iPhone. But I suspect nothing will make us feel better than a shiny new iPhone model in our pockets.

(Slightly significant side note: official Apple style has always banned the use of “the” in front of “iPhone” (or any Apple product). That is, Apple says “You’ll like iPhone” and not “You’ll like the iPhone.” This style continues to be in use on apple.com. In both of these new iPhone spots, the voiceover refers to “the iPhone.” Meaning that these spots go where no article has gone before…)

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  • nuttmedia

    From a demographic standpoint, it is interesting to note the proportion of actors/actresses of asian descent. On a global scale, it shouldn’t surprise, but given media’s history to gear more towards western culture, it is notable; also perhaps telling of Apple’s view of the market opportunity in the East.

  • Jessica Darko

    Interesting timing for this blog post… when today we have the release of this generations “Here’s to the crazy ones…” at the WWDC keynote. I thought it was very interesting how they put a stake in the ground with that ad. Don’t miss the opening video for the keynote with the elucidation of exactly what Apple does with design.

    But the Ben Affleck voiced “Designed by Apple in California” signature (literally) piece is very, very interesting.

    I see it as a response to the beating Apple’s taken over the last year from the idiots and the corrupt who claim they lack innovation, etc.

    It’s the first statement of branding from Apple in the Tim Cook era… goes well with the “more people use iPhones…” spots as well.

    I like it a lot. I like that they’re getting away from the stark white background (Which is in a way reminiscent of the “Mac vs. PC” and the era where putting things on a white background was “radical” seemingly bordering on obsessive minimalism.) They are wonderfully shot and NOT full of models.

    These three spots are the best we’ve seen from Apple in a long time, and the “Designed by Apple in California” spot is like a national anthem… well, to me. It’s makes me feel very patriotic about Apple (and I mean that in a loyal-to-apple way, not in a loyal-to-the-USA, or — shudder– California way. I think California is quickly becoming a reprehensible hellhole as a result of runaway criminal government…. but when Apple says “in California” it harkens back to the time when California was the land of opportunity, the golden state.)

    Here’s to the crazy ones was saying “its ok to be different…” …. this new one says “Here’s what we stand for” with the subtext that is obvious to everyone else, I think, that nobody else stands for the same thing.

    “it’s our signature”.

  • qka

    Exactly. The still frame of the video above is on a ferry in Hong Kong harbor, with the iconic Bank of China building in the background.

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  • Chris

    This ad should have run once. It is being played way too much and has become old fast. Would have been better as two :30s. Actually, would have been better as just a single :30.

  • chris

    I’m talking about the Designed by Apple in California spot.

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