Touchless Control and the lessons of history

Ah, the endless quest for new iPhone features. Last week, we learned of the looming possibility of curved screens and Touchless Control.

Of course it’s silly to analyze features that are years away, if they ever come to exist at all. But what kind of technology enthusiasts would we be if we didn’t talk about our hopes, dreams and fears? This is far cheaper than professional counseling.

It can often be useful to put new ideas in context of old ones.

Curved glass? Yeah, okay. I trust Apple when it comes to hardware design. Touchless Control? Sorry to say, I’m trusting Apple a bit less in the area of usability these days.

The idea of Touchless Control sparked a few neurons that had been tucked away in the rarely-visited iPod section of my brain.Continue reading…

Apple’s case of dance fever

It’s an interesting phenomenon—Apple runs an ad and the internet lights up with comment and commentary. (Points finger at self.)

Not sure many people appreciate how unusual this is. Ads from Dell or HP come and go, and passions rarely flare up. I suppose this is why so many people follow Apple—friend or foe, we actually care what it does.

The Apple story of the week is the new HomePod ad. Four minutes in length, I’m not sure you can call it an ad, but it’s out there and getting mostly positive reactions. Directed by Spike Jonze, psychedelic expanding sets, cool music, emotional dance … what’s not to like?

Oh no. Please don’t tell me you’re going to dump on this ad.

It’s not that I don’t like it. I think it’s beautifully produced, like all Apple ads. But it does make me feel like I’ve been here before. Or, more accurately, that I’ve been here many times before. Like I’m stuck in an infinite loop of Apple dancing ads.Continue reading…

Think different, Take 2

Now that my website has been redesigned into the 21st century, I thought it would be fun to start off with a little cross-century creativity.

Back in 1997, when Steve Jobs introduced the Think different campaign at an internal Apple marketing meeting, he noted that people we honored in the campaign didn’t actually use Apple technology, and then quipped, “but they would have.”

Cue Michael Rylander, designer/art director who was part of the agency Apple creative team back in those days. Steve’s words inspired him to let some of those great people reach into the future to get their hands on some iconic Apple products. Time travel courtesy of Photoshop, of course.Continue reading…

iPhone X and the critics’ Festival Of Wrong

Getting Apple wrong is hardly anything new. Apple naysayers and wrongness share a rich and glorious history.

Remember, Apple failed when it created a computer that works with a mouse; when it left the floppy drive out of iMac; when it forgot how to innovate after iPhone; when it built a watch nobody wanted; when [your favorite fail here].

But history be damned. Following three years of physically unchanged iPhones, iPhone X was a target many critics couldn’t resist.

The result? We were treated to a veritable Festival Of Wrong, served up by countless critics in four distinct phases.Continue reading…

Stretching the truth with iPhone X

Since the dawn of time, advertisers have stretched, exaggerated and mutilated the truth to get consumers’ attention.

Hey, that’s life. It’s also why advertising is a consistent bottom-dweller in every “most respected profession” survey.

But there is hope for mankind.

Some companies have a refreshingly strong sense of advertising ethics. They believe that their products are so good, an honest portrayal is the most effective advertising tool.

Apple has always been one of those companies. That’s one reason I was so attracted to it when I was a baby copywriter.

Apple advertising was always creative and fun, but it was also intelligent and accurate. That’s what made it the industry’s “gold standard” for marketing.

That’s why it makes me nervous when I see today’s Apple playing loose with words and images to sell a product.

Case in point: the “all-screen” iPhone X.Continue reading…

Apple and the common sense factor

We all know that Apple rose from the dead because Steve Jobs had a unique mix of talents.

He had vision, he understood human behavior, he loved design and he was a gifted conductor of a complex orchestra.

My experience with him makes me want to add one more trait to that mix. That is—he relentlessly acted on common sense.

Trust me, this is more rare than it sounds. Working with other iconic companies, I too often saw common sense take a back seat to cost, timetables and opinions. The result was always something less than our original vision.

When I look at today’s Apple, I still see the company I love. I still see products that are beautifully thought-out. I still see the love of design.

But common sense? I worry.Continue reading…

Steve Jobs and the missing “Intel Inside” sticker

Maybe I have a bad attitude.

I’d be quite content if I never again heard the Intel “bong” at the end of every PC ad.

I’d also be terminally depressed if I had to look at a gaudy Intel Inside sticker every time I opened my MacBook.

I get that Intel Inside is one of the most successful marketing campaigns in business history. It’s just that after 36 years, that logo starts to feel more like a pollutant than an advertising device.

Thankfully, Macs have remained 100% free of Intel branding since Apple adopted its processors way back in 2006.Continue reading…

The Great iPhone Naming Opportunity of 2017

For seven years, iPhone naming has ping-ponged between numbers and S’s.

Then, last year we got the iPhone SE, with a moniker that lives outside that naming scheme.

Combining the latest product rumors with what Apple has “trained” us to expect in naming, many expect the 2017 lineup to include an iPhone 7S, iPhone 7S Plus, iPhone 8 and iPhone SE.

Clever, Apple! Your master plan is working flawlessly!

Year after year, you ingeniously fed us those bad iPhone names, knowing that we’d come expect this level of complexity. Only then could you shock the daylights out of us with a stunningly simpler set of names that actually make sense.

[We now return you to reality.]

If you’re a regular here, you know my feeling about the whole “S” thing. It’s a perfect example of a company shooting itself in the marketing foot.Continue reading…

The frustrated Steve Jobs

Like many, I have a habit of idealizing the “good old days” with Steve Jobs.

Keep in mind that I’m an ad guy. It’s incredibly rare that people like me get to work directly with the CEO, and even more rare that the CEO is so passionate about doing great work.

So when I look back, I tend to romanticize even the difficult times, even though I know darn well that the tense moments were … well, tense. Especially with Steve.

Need an example?

Return with me now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, as the color iMacs were about to be unveiled.

On this particular day, Steve had apparently been on a call with a guy named Wayne (I have no memory of him), and Wayne was having a problem finalizing photography to be used in Steve’s upcoming Macworld presentation.

Since I was responsible for the creative work at the ad agency, Steve tried to solve this problem in real-time by adding me to the call — but got my answering machine instead. No doubt this ticked him off even more.

When I got home that day, I got a classic Steve message. What I love about it is that it started so calmly, then steadily escalated into a fury. I didn’t save the recording, but at least I had the foresight to transcribe it.Continue reading…

The making of Apple’s HAL

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).Continue reading…