For years, Apple’s advertising has almost been a parody of itself. A product appears on a white screen. A disembodied finger starts tapping and swiping its way through the device’s features. A self-satisfied voice — often actor Peter Coyote — proclaims the experience “magical.”
And … scene!
Apple was telling us its products were magical instead of showing us that — a key error in effective storytelling.
In four new ads from Apple, however, that format has been ditched in favour of a much more thoughtful, inspiring message about how Apple’s devices actually function in the real world. Instead of telling us they’re magical, the ads show us they are. (See video below.)
We said last year, amid the iPhone 5 launch, that Apple’s ads were becoming old and stale. More recently, Microsoft launched a new campaign for its Windows 8 tablets that parodies Apple’s ads. That’s a sure sign that the shark has been fully jumped.
Since then, the company appears to have done some soul searching. A recent Bloomberg story described a process in which ad agency TBWA/Media Arts Lab makes entire finished commercials for Apple, which senior vice president of marketing Philip W. Schiller then shoots down, costing the company millions.
The process has recently borne fruit, however.
In the newest ad, five people describe how apps have improved their lives. They’re not playing Candy Crush Saga. The users include a Paralympic athlete who adjusts the angle of her prosthetic feet with an app, a Kenyan bush doctor who uses a healthcare app, and there’s a particularly beautiful section about an app that preserves the language of native people living in the Arctic Circle.
It follows on the heels of a corporate image ad dedicated to the primacy of design at the company: “This is our signature, and it means everything,” it says. The closing shot shows the motto, “Designed by Apple in California.”
That was preceded by two ads for the iPhone highlighting iTunes and the phone’s camera. They showed people using the devices in real life, with an understated music score. The subtle message is: We make this easy. That’s why you choose us.
To many this will seem like trivia. But at major companies, and Apple especially (Steve Jobs used to sign off on ads personally), changing your corporate image and doing a whole new marketing campaign are regarded as major endeavours. Apple spends roughly $1 billion a year on ads. So this is one of the biggest corporate image makeovers of the year.
Nails will be bitten and sleep will be lost at Apple as the marketing folks wait to see whether the new direction has an impact on sales.
One thing they need not worry about, however, is their creative reputation. The ads look and feel great. They took a risk, and the first part of that — do we like them? — has paid off.
The new apps ad:
The new “Designed by Apple in California” ad:
The photos ad:
And the music ad:
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