24
Feb 15

Adobe vs. Apple: the Oscars ad shootout

As fate would have it, both Apple and Adobe gave us a new ad on Oscars night.

Each company tapped into the Hollywood theme to craft its message, but the differences were quite extreme.

One takes issue with the idea of dreaming — the other proudly tells us to “dream on.”

One requires a wall-to-wall voiceover — the other uses only visual and sound.

One uses music as a quiet background — the other relies on music to drive the message.

One is about empowering ordinary people — the other is about empowering Hollywood.

So which was the better spot? And, in strictly marketing terms, which did more good for the company it represents?

Apple, as it often does these days, takes the softer route. It offers a beautifully produced, lovingly crafted story of high school kids using iPad to bring out their creative spirit.

It takes a few replays to fully appreciate. The sound track is lifted from a commencement speech by Martin Scorcese. In this way, it echoes the “What’s Your Verse” commercial that borrowed a speech by Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society.

The message is important, and consistent with Apple’s quest to put real power in the hands of real people.

Interesting, yes. Exciting, no.

Now take a look at what Adobe did to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Photoshop.

Propelled by Aerosmith’s Dream On, Adobe gives us a lively show of Photoshop images and tools that tell a story without any words at all. It’s a celebration of Photoshop’s 25 years, inspiring by example.

I did get a kick out of Apple’s and Adobe’s dueling takes on the “dreaming” concept.

Apple: “Dreaming is a way of trivializing the process, the obsession that carries you through the failure as well as the successes, which could be harder to get through.”

Adobe: “Dream on.”

That, actually, is the basic difference between the two commercials. One delivers a wordy lecture on creativity, the other simply celebrates it.

Despite Scorcese’s protest, the Adobe spot is riveting and entertaining. It feels alive. It doesn’t need to explain itself. I watched it several times — not so I could understand it, but so I could enjoy it.

If the advertisers’ goal on Oscars night is to be noticed, and to deliver a message that can be absorbed quickly, Adobe did an excellent job of it.

Defenders of Apple’s approach might say that empowering real people is richer and more important than empowering Hollywood. Quite true.

However, you can inspire real people to do great things by sharing what the pros are doing. It’s an age-old and perfectly valid advertising technique — one that Apple itself uses so often on its website.

The thing is, when you’re paying millions to run a spot on the Oscars, you’re not just trying to send a message. You’re trying to create some buzz.

In this case, Apple made a pretty good ad. But Adobe made a really good one.

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  • djr12

    I like both ads. But despite the overt “dream” theme of both, I don’t think they’re really about dreaming. I think they’re both good because they focus on (a word Scorsese’s speech uses) — process. Both show the *process* of creating something. Adobe’s is more powerful in one way because it literally shows off the process of using their software to create something. Apple, as Apple always does, focuses on the people. Theirs isn’t as exciting. But it’s probably more charming, precisely because it shows the mistakes and false steps.

  • WFA67

    I dunno, Ken. To me, the Adobe ad seems more shallow ‘spectacle’ than anything heartful. And I could do without a cruise into Steven Tyler’s mouth.

    Doesn’t the expression “Dream On” have more than one meaning?

  • danny ortega

    This particular apple style does seem to be a bit long in the tooth. It’s difficult to understand why apple would include kids using production equipment that is many times the cost of an ipad. It seems like that was an opportunity to show just how creative kids can get to achieve hollywood style movement with out the $2000 Jib, or Dolly track. Adobe ad was indeed excellent.

  • Scorsese’s speech is great, but it’s incredibly difficult to focus on what he’s saying while the visuals are happening, and I find his words just go in one ear and out the other, which is a shame. Also, what’s up with the very off-brand typography of these last two iPad ads? I’m not a fan of that. If Apple’s Myriad typeface was deemed unsuitable for this campaign, it almost seems it would’ve been better to just end with the Apple logo and have no words on screen.

  • ksegall

    Excellent point about the typography. It actually deserves an article of its own. I could be mistaken (not by much), but I don’t think Apple has ever done something like this before. Ever. Just making the move from Garamond to Myriad was a huge deal for Steve Jobs. It was something we experimented with quite a bit, but it took Steve a couple of years before he felt comfortable enough to do it. He would never do something like that on a whim. Granted, times change — but I was very surprised when I saw Apple going this route. I suppose I could get over it, but it feels gimmicky and ordinary to me.

  • ksegall

    Excellent point about the typography. It actually deserves an article of its own. I could be mistaken (not by much), but I don’t think Apple has ever done something like this before. Ever. Just making the move from Garamond to Myriad was a huge deal for Steve Jobs. It was something we experimented with quite a bit, but it took Steve a couple of years before he felt comfortable enough to do it. He would never do something like that on a whim. Granted, times change — but I was very surprised when I saw Apple going this route. I suppose I could get over it, but it feels gimmicky and ordinary to me.

  • isitjustme

    If one think one can master photoshop the way Adobe portrayed it in the ad only happen in dreams.

  • Chris

    I’ve watched the Adobe spot twice. Apple’s once. Apple’s going to the well one too many times.

  • Juande SantanderVela

    If you remove Scorsese’s track, the Apple ad still works, I think that’s the simplicity of it. But when you have to listen to it, it is too hurried a piece, making the ad more complex. Conversely, the Adobe add without the soundtrack does not work at all, and many things are animated, not really done by an artist, so it is a little bit gimmicky, but it works.