There’s a comforting predictability to the holidays. Decorations go up and the shopping countdown begins.
There’s a predictability to the holiday ads as well — most of which scream big sales and hot products.
What we don’t expect to see is an advertiser taking a risk. Which is why I find Apple’s 2013 holiday spot so interesting.
Ever see a company spend nearly half of its holiday commercial depicting the downside of its own product?
Apple has done just that — painting the picture of a kid seemingly more interested in the virtual world of his iPhone than the family around him.
The twist, of course, is that this kid is different. Far from withdrawn, he’s actually inspired. He’s using technology to give the family a gift from the heart — one that will be treasured for years to come.
It’s a clever concept. The spot relies on our own stereotypes to lead us to an incorrect assumption, setting the stage for the second half of the spot to pull our heartstrings so effectively. Despite its cleverness, the spot feels very real.
The casting is excellent. Absent dialogue, the kid’s character is revealed only through facial expressions and body language. He comes across every bit like the kids we all know.
Creating reality like this requires time, money and talent — all of which are amply on display.
Of course, we’re talking about Apple here — so there’s no shortage of critics eager to tell us why the commercial fails. Take your pick: it says little about the product, any smartphone can make a movie, or the spot is a depressing statement about human values.
Most of these people mistake their personal opinion, instinct, values and/or taste for actual marketing talent. There are tens of millions of people who will stop in their tracks at this commercial and wipe a tear from their eye. As a result, they will feel slightly more attached to Apple, which is the marketing purpose of this spot.
Far from depressing, this ad is wonderfully optimistic. In the most human terms, it says that the right technology can bring people closer together. It’s a perfect thought for the holidays.
If you want to get a read on the ad’s effectiveness, just Google around a bit. The reactions have been almost universally glowing. In the best of times, that would be impressive enough. But these positive reviews come at the end of a year in which the buzz has not been kind to Apple.
This ad is a holiday card from Cupertino. It lines up perfectly with the values Apple has communicated for years. It’s not about technology — it’s about quality of life.
The takeaway is much the same as one gets from the “Designed by Apple in California” ad, but I like it a hundred times more. In that previous effort, Apple simply told us why it is different. This new spot tells an interesting story and lets us draw that conclusion for ourselves. It’s a more artful, more memorable way to make the point.
Once again, Apple demonstrates it’s a different kind of technology company. Most talk about what goes into their phones — Apple shows what we can get out of them.
That’s a welcome message any time of the year.
If you haven’t had enough of this topic yet, listen to my conversation with Shawn King of Your Mac Life.