reported by this Web site’s very own news-gathering team
this week, three new iPhone TV ads are now in heavy rotation at a television set near you.
I discussed them briefly
elsewhere on the site, mostly from the perspective of seeing them for the first time at an elevation of 35,000 feet thanks to the miracle of JetBlue’s in-flight entertainment options. But I think the new commercials invite further discussion, largely because they’re such a departure from previous iPhone advertising.
But before we get into that, here’s a blow-by-blow account of the three new iPhone spots:
relates the story of that time he and his girlfriend were about to meet her boss and the boss’s fiancée for dinner, only they couldn’t remember said fiancée’s name. The solution to this dicey social situation? Whip out the iPhone and surreptitiously use the
built-in Safari browser
to look up the fiancée’s name on the wedding Web site. Also an acceptable solution: Have the boss introduce the fiancée you’ve never met before, like a civilized, well-mannered adult.
With the exception of a brief cutaway of Doug scrolling through his visual voicemail list of deadbeats and unfortunates, the only time you see an iPhone in any of the three ads is in the hands of the Doug, Elliot, and Stefano—there’s no close-up of the iPhone’s interface.
This is a marked contrast to the initial blast of iPhone advertising
back in June, where the phone was clearly the star of the show. With the exception of a hand that performed the pinching, scrolling, flicking, and flipping required to operate the device, the iPhone’s interface was all you saw in those 30-second spots. Perhaps, Apple is assuming that at this point in the iPhone’s lifespan, everyone who’s going to plunk down $399 for the device knows what it looks like. And it’d be hard to argue otherwise.
Still, I can’t get over the gnawing suspicion that, while most potential buyers may be able to recognize an iPhone on sight, they are probably still unclear on how easy it is to operate. To spend even the briefest moments scrolling your way through an iPhone’s functions is to almost immediately realize how very different it is from competing devices. And to me, it seems a more effective use of airtime in a visual medium to
the device in action, rather than just have someone talk about it.
this spot, which was among the original trio of iPhone TV ads. The 30-second commercial shows how a user can quickly go from watching a movie to looking up directions to placing a phone call, all on the same device. If there’s a snappier way of showing the power and simplicity of the iPhone, I’d sure like to see it.
The counter-argument, I suppose, is that the latest iPhone ads move beyond the introduce-the-phone’s-features message into a real-stories-from-real-people phase. Think of it as the iPhone’s version of
the Switch campaign
from a few years back, in which disaffected Windows users professed their newfound love of the Mac platform. Of course, that campaign debuted in 2002, long after most people knew what the Mac looked like and what it could do—I’m not sure that the message about the iPhone has achieved that level of mindshare in a little more than three months.
There’s a trend of late to have Apple commercials in which the Apple product being advertised is relegated to a cameo, if it even appears at all. (Think the
Get a Mac ads, where actors stand in as symbolic representations of computers. One can make the case that not every commercial needs to feature the actual product you’re supposed to buy, but when it comes to the iPhone, I don’t feel we’ve reached that stage just yet. Of course, I invite any advertising experts—or at least, enlightened amateurs—to tell me why I’m wrong.
Update: After posting this blog entry, one of my colleagues—the shy, retiring type who’d prefer not to see his name in print—notes that only one feature (Visual Voicemail) is actually name-checked. Google Maps, Yahoo, iTunes Wi-Fi, and others are all MIA. Even Elliot never actually mentions the name of the Web browser that he uses to get the fiancée’s name—just that the iPhone has Web-surfing powers.
So it makes me wonder if the ads are not actually Apple’s handiwork, but rather spearheaded by the company’s