Assessing Apple's Intel ad

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Let us turn our attention away from new Apple portables and overlooked software suite updates for a moment to tackle true matters of grave import—Apple’s TV commercials.

In case you missed last Tuesday’s keynote, Steve Jobs punctuated the unveiling of Intel chip-powered iMacs and MacBook Pro laptops by showing off a new TV ad about the move to Intel-built chips. In fact, Jobs showed off the commercial twice, which is either a sign that he really likes the ad or, depending on how much stock you put in rumors, that something got pulled from the keynote at the last second and the Apple CEO needed to pad his speech.

The commercial is set in the sterile confines of an Intel chip fabrication plant while white-suited Intel workers bustle about with Very Serious looks on their faces. Announcer Kiefer Sutherland, also contributing to the Very Serious vibe of the whole scene, intones that for years Intel chips have been trapped in “dull little boxes dutifully performing dull little tasks when it could have been doing so much more.” But now, the announcer tells us, “the Intel chip has been set free” and will start appearing in Macs. The commercial ends with a hero shot of the all new iMac.

I like the ad. It’s got a few too many shots of Very Serious Intel workers for my tastes, but it does a good job conveying the message that Macs now run on Intel and that this is a very good thing indeed without getting bogged down in the technical details. Face it—the vast majority of people don’t care if the chips inside their computers are manufactured by IBM, Intel, or Pringles, and they certainly don’t want to be pummeled with tech specs during commercial breaks for Will & Grace . The ad tells people just enough to let them know there are some new Macs worth taking a look at, and it closes with a decently aspirational tag line to boot—“Imagine the possibilities.”

The ad got a great response during the keynote, which got me to wondering: where does it rank among the greatest all-time Apple commercials. As much as I enjoy the Intel-on-Mac spot, it doesn’t crack my all-time top three, which is headed up by the original “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” ad from the Think Different era (is it possible for a TV commercial to actually be inspiring?), the 1984 “Big Brother” ad (got to stick with the classics), and the commercial about using the original iMac to get on the Internet in three steps (points off for Jeff Goldblum narration, sure, but you just can’t top “There is no step three” as the tagline).

Of course, the flipside to this discussion is, what was the worst ad Apple ever put on my television? The winner and still champion: the memorably awful “Middle Seat” commercial, which was intended to show off the Mac’s prowess at digital lifestyle application. Instead, the ad left viewers with the impression that Mac users are pushy, thoughtless oafs who will commandeer your tray-table on red-eye flights and force you to listen to Baha Men songs that are six months past their freshness date. Sadly, the “Middle Seat” commercial ends before we see the federal Air Marshal drag this iBook-wielding menace off to the back of the plane for a good talking-to.

Anyhow, those are my hits and misses. I’d be interested to hear about the Apple ads you like and loathe—and whether this latest commercial winds up on either list.

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