I used to devote hours to feverishly writing up my annual Super Bowl ad review. And then, one day, the thrill was gone.
Between the lack of surprise (so many spots are released early now) and the general mediocrity, it became more chore than fun.
That said, I refuse to lose my Big Game spirit. So — how about a little story from Apple’s Super Bowl past?
What follows is the tale of HAL: Apple’s 1999 Super Bowl commercial starring the malevolent computer from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
HAL became Apple’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1985, when the ill-conceived Lemmings commercial ran. That, as you know, was the follow-up to the previous year’s amazing 1984 commercial — arguably the greatest commercial of all time.
Read on if you’re interested in learning how ads were often born in Steve Jobs’s Apple. The process was not at all like what you find in most big companies today (including Apple). More ▸
Every election year, I am re-amazed by one of the more amazing things I learned in my advertising life.
That is, there is one set of rules for consumer ads and no set of rules for political ads.
Want to run a TV ad for your toilet cleanser? It will have to be cleared by the network’s “ethics and standards” group. No false or misleading claims allowed about your product or your competitor’s.
Want to run a TV commercial for your political candidate? No lawmen here, so have at it. Lies, half-truths and conspiracy theories are welcome.
While the networks act as a watchdog for consumer advertising, the Federal Trade Commission actually brings action against violators. They have a nice little set of punishments, including cease-and-desist orders, fines, frozen assets and compensation for those affected by fraud.
On their website, the FTC says,“The FTC looks especially closely at advertising claims that can affect consumers’ health or their pocketbooks.”
Hmm. It’s not like a presidential candidate can affect our health or pocketbook, right? More ▸
Steve Jobs didn’t judge people solely on the quality of their work. He also put a high value on time — and wasting time was an unforgivable sin.
I saw this more than once in our regular marketing meetings. Someone would confidently present their ideas, Steve would ponder for a moment, and then let it out: “That’s it? You could have done this one day after our last meeting. What have you been doing for the past two weeks?”
It would then fall upon the offending party to put up their best defense. I don’t remember that ever working.
Of course, it was entirely possible that this person had been slaving away every day, at great personal sacrifice. But if the work didn’t show time well spent, Steve’s fury was unleashed.
Fast forward to Apple’s recent product unveiling. More ▸
But hell, it really is amazing how some news organizations twist people’s words to maximize the clicks.
The latest example is a story now running on CNBC.
Two days ago, I posted an article here about Apple’s recent advertising, in which I praised the Bulbs spot as “one of the greatest ads in Apple history.”
But when CNBC wrote their article about my post, they gave it the headline:
Apple’s ‘Think Different’ ad creator says its new commercial uses ‘oldest trick in advertising book’
Yikes. Sounds like a bitter man slamming Apple — when in fact I’m happy guy dripping with admiration. Really.
I did describe Apple’s montage technique as “the oldest trick in the advertising book.” However, I made it clear that this is part of the ad’s genius. It employs a familiar technique to create something fresh and exciting — what I believe to be one of Apple’s all-time best.
To its credit, CNBC’s article includes my full explanation. To its discredit, my full explanation lives under that horribly misleading headline.
It’s not that I’m such a slow writer. (Well, maybe a little of that.) It’s because I’ve been patient and forgiving. I’ve tried to adapt, learn new tricks and think positive. But at some point I have to face the fact—
I will never love the Siri Remote for Apple TV.
In fact, I think it’s earned a place in the Apple Hall of Infamy, right alongside one of the company’s classic aberrations: the hockey puck mouse that shipped with the original iMac. More ▸
There is a long list of must-do things for anyone who visits Prague.
Like the Charles Bridge, built in 1538. Or the Prague Castle, largest of the world’s ancient castles, dating back to the 9th century.
But hell, Prague is also home to the world’s only Apple Museum — which dates all the way back to 2015. And, as an Apple enthusiast, I do have to keep my priorities straight.
So, yes, I did visit the Apple Museum on my first day in the Czech Republic last week. (Do I get any points if I walked across the Charles Bridge to get there?) I even sat down with the museum’s manager days later to learn a bit more.
Now that I’m back in New York, here are some photos and observations from my little adventure. More ▸
iPhone 7 is coming. And if the rumors are true, the logic of iPhone naming will be soon be stress-tested.
Before we dig in, it’s important to note that the name of the new device is unconfirmed at this point. We have only an assumption based on iPhone naming history.
But that history is actually the problem.
According to the Sacred Scrolls, the iPhone model number only changes when the device gets a redesign. Yet the leaks indicate that iPhone 7 will be more of a “6SS” than a 7. That is, the only changes to the previous model will be internal.
The big rethink apparently arrives in 2017.
If Apple now unveils an iPhone 7, does this mean we’ll skip 7S next year and go directly to iPhone 8? Or will a 7S represent the next great rethink? The bigger question is: are we doomed to wander forever in a sea of letters and numbers representing varying degrees of newness?
If you’re starting to think this conversation is silly, I’m with you 100%. It’s silly because this whole S business was never necessary in the first place. In fact, it’s actually worked against Apple’s best interests.
To better appreciate this self-inflicted wound, let’s do a little forensic work. More ▸
Here’s another hero of simplicity whose story is part of my new book, Think Simple.
One of the reasons I was excited to write another book was that it gave me the opportunity to look at the power of simplicity beyond the world of technology. I had conversations with a fascinating group of business leaders in different industries and countries.
In the process, I found inspiration in places I did not expect. One such place was the credit card business in South Korea.
Ted Chung is Vice Chairman and CEO of Hyundai Card, a financial division of the larger Hyundai Motor Group. He was brought into the company after leading the turnaround of a Hyundai factory in Mexico—and Hyundai Card was in serious need of a turnaround. Projections indicated it was about to lose more than a billion dollars that year.
Ted is not your typical corporate leader. He’s even less typical as a financial company leader, as he came to the job without deep experience in the industry.
But Ted knows a lot about running and inspiring a company, and he is a true believer in the power of simplicity. More ▸
My new book, Think Simple, will be published tomorrow. While my previous book focused on the power of simplicity as practiced by Steve Jobs and Apple, the new one goes further. I sought out more than 40 practitioners of simplicity in a range of companies around the world. Here’s one of them. Or, actually, three of them…
In searching for my heroes of simplicity, I hoped to find the most colorful stories. This one had more color than anticipated.
Blue Man Group was founded by Chris Wink, Phil Stanton and Matt Goldman. For those who aren’t familiar, BMG creates entertainment experiences. It’s hard to explain, but amazing to see. The show is all fun—combining music, performance art, electronics, strange instruments, audience participation and general mind-bending.
Blue Man Group started in 1987 as a three-man street act in New York City. Now they have permanent theaters in five U.S. cities and Berlin, and have performed for more than 30 million people around the world. More ▸
Who the heck do I think I am? I’m a creative director who’s had more than a few adventures in technology marketing, including branding, product naming and strategy. I have a long history with Apple and NeXT — where I took a blood oath to uphold the principles of simplicity.
Currently, I have talks scheduled in these places.
(Public events are indicated by live links.)
16 March: Sydney, Australia
25 March: San Diego, CA
17 May: Mexico City, Mexico
31 May: Sydney, Australia
7 June: Bogota, Colombia
14 June: Tokyo, Japan
26 Sep: Malaga, Spain