Jan 14

Apple takes the lofty route for iPad

There are a thousand ways Apple could have gone in creating a new iPad campaign.

Humor? Nope. Intelligent wit? Uh-uh. Technology superiority? No thanks. Philosophy? Bingo!

With the 90-second Verses commercial above (now officially a campaign with two new 30-second cut-downs, Light Verse and Sound Verse), Apple is taking the high road. We get the 1989 Robin Williams quoting Walt Whitman from Dead Poets Society.

Though the spot seemed unexpected for many, Apple has been making noises in this direction for some time now.

Just before Verses, Apple gave us Life on iPad — which is very much like Verses visually, but minus the voiceover.

In Our Signature, Apple spoke philosophically about its core values. Visually, it too was a collection of human moments made possible by Apple technology.

So‚ what do we think of this new approach? Will it make some Android users question their choice? Will it lure the undecided to Apple’s light? Will its creativity make competitors’ ads look shallow in comparison?

Who knows.

Personally, I love the sentiment of Verses. It feels like something only Apple would do. It’s nicely produced (though I do wish Robin’s voice had more bottom to it). It’s well on its way to becoming a “moment” in Apple advertising history.

That said, I don’t expect it to do much persuading.

Verses works well as an anthem for Apple customers, giving them more reason to bond with their favorite company. It makes Apple people proud, and rightfully so. And that’s reason enough to put it on the air.

And of course it will also appeal to a good number of non-Apple customers, generating good PR in the process.

But — while this spot can be seen as uplifting and inspirational, it can also be seen as incredibly pretentious. One must admit, it’s a bit of intellectual overkill for those who just want to do their email, surf and shop — which probably covers most of the tablet-buying public.

This is where it is important to remember: Apple has never, and never will, try to please everyone. That’s a PC and Android behavior. Apple speaks and sells to people with a more discerning set of values.

These people are smaller in number, but they have money — and they’re willing to spend more if they believe they’re getting more. Thus, Apple can outshine its competitors in the profit department even though it sells fewer devices.

Tim Cook knows, as Steve Jobs knew, that Apple must constantly nurture its customer relationships, which explains why commercials like these get produced.

What I have always admired about Apple advertising is that it is a perfect reflection of the company’s products.

So I’m rooting for Apple to consider Verses a job well done, and then get back to ads that amaze and delight — which is what iPad does best.

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  • That felt like a soft punch.

  • RedMercury

    Remember Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” ads? That’s what it makes me think of.

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  • neutrino23

    Not every ad has to be aimed directly at the consumer in order to cause an immediate sale. It may be that by aiming high Apple is reinforcing a good impression of Apple as a brand. People may not connect to the ad directly yet still get a good impression of Apple. Hard to know if you are not on the inside.

  • ksegall

    Agreed. Despite the fact that Verses signs off with “iPad Air,” it’s not a product ad at all. It’s designed to help boost the image of Apple the brand.

  • Andrew F.

    Am I being nitpicky if I found that the iPad Air name at the end diminishes the ad? It seems the Mini does everything the ad shows the Air doing. Should have just said iPad.

  • ksegall

    Totally agree!

  • PKCLsoft

    For me, the ad emphasizes that I’ve made the right choices for my family by getting Apple products. We’ve been using them for years now; my youngest is a passionate author to be and having an iPad in the house has encouraged her to write, write and write. She’s completed 6 books now, has 10 more on progress totaling well over 200,000 words (she’s 12 btw) and if she’d had to sit at a type writer, or a desk using windows I’m certain that her spark to write would not be so strong.

    The iPad is now a central part of daily routine for all if us. There’s a Mac in the corner and it gets turned on maybe once a fortnight. The iPad us a device built for productivity and I see this all the time.

    This campaign is great. When I first saw it I tweeted that both my kids are busy writing their own verse and it’s so true.

  • ksegall

    Thanks. I’m glad to hear a real-life story. You’re the kind of person I was referring to as the likely target for the spot — a current Apple customer who now feels a stronger bond with the company as a result.

    I’m interested to hear what non-Apple customers and Android users think of it. I’m winging it here, because most of the opinions I’ve heard have been from writers and journalists. Let me know if you bump into any…

  • Greg

    Ken, I fear most non Apple customers may not see the ad, unless Apple were to run it within a video game, and all the android users are on ski slopes somewhere creeping out “pretty ladies”.

  • Starman_Andromeda

    I found the ad to be “meh”. The frenetic, frankly weird, Robin Williams, was no smart pick either. And the ad was too long, but at least they’re fixing that.

    Life on iPad was so much better, especially as it let nature, the researchers and use, and the iPad take center stage–without the Williams distraction. And I’m a fan of Whitman, too!

  • 21tigermike

    Huh? How so?

  • Dan

    Ken, you think since its the 30th anniversary of the mac, Apple may have a commercial during this super bowl?

  • ksegall

    Kinda doubt it. In the absence of a major new product, it would have to be some kind of big brand spot — and it seems like they just did that. Apple seems to be pretty judicious in the use of their media dollars.

  • Andrew F

    Lee Clow seemed to hint that there was something in the works for the Super Bowl.

  • ksegall

    So he did. We’ll soon find out..

  • MH288

    Having followed Apple for many (about 22) years, now, this really worries me. Apple have had, for quite a while now, first-class marketing and their advertising has not only shown the “sizzle”, but also what they think is good about their products, however this is a good example of what they seem to be doing more and more, recently: just telling people how cool they are, rather than backing it up with hard products/information. I’m extremely worried for them as they seem to be lacking any solid direction and control over their products and they’ve gone from leading the competition to having to keep up with it. The real killer for me was when they started slating the competition in their release shows – that’s always a terrible sign that a company is losing confidence in its own products. This seems like a rather desperate attempt to convince their existing users that they’re still cool (a bit like an aging pop-star) so they don’t lose them, rather than get new customers on board, which is also worrying – again, a company that has confidence in its own products knows (and Apple has been like this in prior years) that those products in the users’ hands are good enough to sell the company back to those existing users, and that advertising is for expanding their client-base. And ksegall, I’m not an android fan-boy, nor a journalist, but I have been involved in technology, programming and geekery for about 31 years, now.

  • Jon Mason

    For me, this movie is a generational touch-stone. The quote is immediately recognizable and brings back a flood of fond memories and inspiration. This film, Dead Poets Society is in the small circle that I’ve forced my kids to watch.

    Apple uses this as a sign to let me know that they share my values, likes and taste. Makes perfect sense to me.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing. For this guy, they nailed it. I think I would have preferred a rerecording instead of using the movie audio, but it’s a small gripe.

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