Apple TV gets some airtime

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Sometimes, there are just not enough hours in the day. The past few days, I’ve been tinkering with a blog post about Apple TV —specifically on how we had yet to see a TV commercial for the set-top box that connects your computer and your television set for convenient movie watching. I was going to muse on why we had seen an iPhone TV ad when that product won’t be out until June and not one for a product that, if you live within driving distance of an Apple Store and have $299 on hand, you could have hooked up to your TV set by day’s end. And then I was going to make a suggestion for what I thought would be an effective Apple TV commercial—an idea for a 30-second spot so ingenious that the TBWAChiatDay people would beat a path to my door to offer me obscene amounts of money to get into the ad game. I would sheepishly decline, of course—I’m married to the news biz—but still, I’d be flattered.

So there I was polishing this blog post when, all of sudden, Apple comes out with a commercial for Apple TV, rendering everything I had written completely moot.

Well… change of plans, then.

I don’t think the fact that we’re only seeing an Apple TV ad now as opposed to the iPhone commercial’s high-profile debut during the Academy Awards isn’t necessarily a reflection of the Apple TV’s prospects as a product. Some would argue that Apple TV will produce more revenue for Apple than iPhone will; it’s just that right now, the iPhone has more buzz surrounding it, so Apple probably figured it should strike while the iron is hot.

And let’s face it: Apple TV is not that an easy product to advertise in a visual medium. Essentially, we’re talking about a small, thin box that helps you watch television. While it’s something to see in person, it’s not the sort of thing that translates easily to a 30-second clip.

I thought the trick for Apple and its ad agency would be to tout Apple TV as the missing piece in a larger puzzle—something that allowed you to easily take video you already own and watch it on another device. (Really! That’s what I was going to say. It profits me nothing to fib about this.) And in essence that’s what the initial Apple TV ad does.

The ad begins with someone watching the movie School of Rock —now available via iTunes !—on an iMac at his desk; we pan to another room where that same person is watching the movie on a video iPod; and, after another pan, we’re watching the movie on a flat-screen TV that’s next to an Apple TV. The commercial drives home the point that Apple TV is just another seamless step in your movie-viewing experience—the continuous panning helps a lot in that regard—without getting into the ins and outs of how you get content on there or what it can and can’t do or any of the other Apple TV questions that might otherwise distract from the ad’s message.

I think it’s a pretty effective ad, but then again, it pretty much mirrors what I was going to suggest. (No, really!) It’s also fairly reminiscent of another TV ad I saw recently in which a guy watches an action movie on his TV, mobile device, and laptop as he goes from his apartment to a cab to a train; that ad may be less effective than Apple’s effort, however, since I can’t for the life of me remember the product, service or company it was supposed to make me want to spend money on.

But that’s just the opinion of one person whose imaginings closely matched the finished product. What do you folks think? Is this TV spot going to make other people want to spend $299 for an Apple TV? Or was Apple better off with 30 seconds of movie characters answering the phone in its iPhone spot?

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