The iPhone says hello

In a sign that this was either a deadly dull Oscars ceremony—do we really need to take up about four hours of air time to come to the conclusion that The Departed was a pretty good movie—or that Apple needs to ship something, anything , even if it’s just an Apple-branded mood ring, Apple’s iPhone teaser ad has been viewed and reviewed more thoroughly than the Zapruder film. So, in the absence of any actual product to talk about—still waiting on that mood ring, Apple—I figure I can sound off on the 30-second commercial just as well as anyone else.

As reported by yours truly, Apple aired the iPhone ad during Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony. The spot featured clips of assorted movies and TV shows, with each of the actors saying, “Hello,” followed by a shot of the iPhone and a teaser text saying that the product—the phone is never mentioned by name—is coming this June. The general reaction, in our forums and elsewhere appears to be some variation of “Nice ad and all, but pretty ho-hum.” And I suppose if the ad was meant to be targeted at people who’ve devoured all the iPhone news they can get hands on, I’d be inclined to agree.

But I don’t think that’s who Apple was targeting with this ad appearing alongside this particular program. Rather, I think Apple was hoping to reach people who were only vaguely aware that it had unveiled a new phone back in January and certainly did know that it was coming in June. Believe it or not, there are people out there who can’t recite the Macworld Expo keynote from memory or quote you chapter and verse on the iPhone’s specifications. For these folks—and I’m willing to bet there’s a lot more of them than there are of us—just getting them to realize that the company that makes their iPod is coming out with a phone in just a few months is enough of a message.

And to that end, I think the iPhone ad was a success. The use of movie clips fit the venue. The ad managed to generate buzz without assaulting people with a wealth of technical details. In short, I think it encouraged people to find out more about the iPhone (though including a URL directing people to Apple’s iPhone page might have helped in that regard).

Now on to more pressing matters: reader Uncommon asks in our forums:

After the ad had run a couple of time I started wondering how many people had made a list of all the movies used… and how many times it had already been posted on the Internet… I tried searching but couldn’t seem to come up with the right search terms to filter through all the other iPhone stuff.

I can’t speak for the rest of the Wide World of Web, but I’m willing to take a shot at identifying each of the clips. I invited our readers to fill in my blanks or correct me where my memory has failed me. ( Update: I’ve received a tremendous amount of feedback—you folks really know your movies—so I’ve augmented the list below with parenthetical additions courtesy of reader feedback. Thanks to everyone who has participated.)

  1. Lucille Ball, from I Love Lucy
  2. Jackie Gleason, most likely from The Honeymooners, but quite possibly from The Jackie Gleason Show ( Honeymooners , more than one reader confirms; the “Dial J for Janitor” episode, specifically)
  3. Humphrey Bogart, and I’d be willing to wager it’s The Maltese Falcon
  4. Marlon Brando, from A Streetcar Named Desire
  5. Jerry Lewis, and no, Macworld does not pay me enough to comb through Jerry Lewis’ curriculum vitae
  6. Marilyn Monroe? Some Like It Hot ? I feel like I should be more confident about this one (And for good reason, since several readers have confirmed that I’m right)
  7. I know it’s Clark Gable, but I couldn’t tell you which film
  8. Peter Sellers from one of the Pink Panther movies (the first one, readers say)
  9. Steve McQueen, almost certainly from Bullit
  10. Richard Dreyfus, American Graffiti
  11. Not a clue—the scene is too backlit for me to identify the actor. Anybody willing to make a guess? (Burt Reynolds from Boogie Nights , according to a dozen e-mails and counting)
  12. Betty Rubble, courtesy of The Flintstones
  13. Robert Redford, and this is just a guess, but Three Days of the Condor ?
  14. Michael J. Fox, in one of the Back to the Future installments (the first one, more than one reader says)
  15. Harrison Ford, in a movie in which he’s not battling Nazis or hanging out with wookies, so I’m clueless (The majority opinion around the office seems to be that this is The Fugitive , though a few readers have written in to tell us we’re wrong)
  16. John Cusack, from High Fidelity
  17. Audrey Tautou, from Amelie
  18. Kevin Spacey, in what the period cosutmes suggest is L.A. Confidential
  19. William H. Macy, in what his accent suggests is Fargo
  20. Dustin Hoffman, definitely; the movie, I’m not so sure. Meet the Fockers ?
  21. Will Ferrell, Anchorman
  22. Sarah Jessica Parker, in what I think might be a Sex in the City episode (a few readers have pointed out that she’s using a PowerBook—synergy!)
  23. Jeff Bridges from The Big Lebowski —The Dude abides
  24. Billy Crystal, don’t recognize the movie ( When Harry Met Sally —my excuse is I’ve never seen it)
  25. Cameron Diaz, don’t recognize the movie ( Charlie’s Angels and I’m not the least bit ashamed to have to be told that)
  26. Samuel L. Jackson, Shaft. Can you dig it?
  27. John Travolta, in a picture I am unfamiliar with ( A Civil Action , sayeth the readers)
  28. Robert DeNiro, in nothing I recognize
  29. Ben Stiller, from Zoolander
  30. Michael Douglas, from The American President; and
  31. Mr. Incredible, voiced by Craig T. Nelson, from The Incredibles

Other iPhone ad fun facts, to amuse your family nd friends:


• Of those 31 clips, all but seven have the actor saying “Hello.” The exceptions: Dreyfus (“Hello! Hello! Hello!”); Betty Rubble (“Oh hello, Barney.”); Tautou (“Bonjour!”); Spacey (“Hi.”); Macy (“How ya doing there?”); Hoffman (“Ye-lo”); and Jackson (“Yo, yo.”).


• The song featured in the ad is Inside Your Head by Eberg, at least according to Derik DeLong, who is much, much hipper about these sorts of things than me.


• The clip that I would have liked to see in the commercial? The one from Top Secret! where the East German general picks up the oversized novelty phone.

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