I was recently remenicing my eariler days with Apple. I just upgraded to a 2017 MacBook Pro and this new laptop signaled the final days of my first personal computer. My little 11″ MacBook Air had entered retirement after 4 short human years and (what feels like) 500 long computer years.
The Air line of MacBooks always struck me as significant. They are undoubtedly “Apple”—slick, modern, and suave. These little computers did quite a bit and said even more.
Which brings me to my remenicing…
That’s my favorite Apple ad. It’s stuck with me for nearly a decade since its premiere. Its small, but commands your attention, like the machine advertised used to do. This ad is so “Apple.”
Almost 10 years later, the entire landscape of the company has changed. The iPhone was only one year old at the time of the “New Soul” ad. At the beginning of 2017, the iPhone made up 69.5% of Apple’s revenue and having sold 1.2 billion units in its lifetime. The iPad wouldn’t be out for another two years. Needless to say, the face of Apple has changed over the last decade: and lately, I’ve begun to notice a shift. Maybe this shift was inevitable due to the nature of selling millions of mobile devices. Maybe the shift happened a while ago and I am simply now aware. I’m not sure, but I fell confident in saying that this shift in identity signals a deeper issue of the way Apple designs. Unfortunately, for the worse.
I want to explore some other ads Apple (and other companies) have made to point out this change. Let’s explore the ad-entity of Apple in recent years.
iPhone X Ads
The most recent ads for the most recent iPhone, as of this writing. Three of the four are entirely focused on Face ID; the snappy, futuristic way to unlock iPhone X. Facial recognition has been around on Android and Windows for a while, but I do believe this is the most secure way it’s been implemented for public use. Super cool tech either way, not so much for the ad.
“Pay with your face”
Clearly gets the point across. It’s certainly fast with its montage style edit. I find it entirely forgettable though. I don’t sense any pride in the product. We get no real look at the device itself besides one at the end. Sure, the focus is on the facial recognition tech inside the phone, but that is only conveyed through the text. The ad is in your face. Which, I guess, is the point.
I will say, the Animoji ad is quite fun though. Hopping on the Animoji karaoke train is smart and the ad sticks with you longer. Why? Because it takes the time to show you the product. Not the phone itself, but the Animoji aspect of the device. Where the Face ID ads fail to show the tech in action, Animoji exclusively shows it in action in a fun, catchy way.
A fair point you may be thinking is, “This is an ad for a feature on the phone. Not the same as the phone itself Max. Duh,” Fair. The iPhone X original ad suffers from the same problem of not showing off the device as a whole. I am real familiar with the corners though.
Ths is the biggest redesign the iPhone has seen in years and I feel like it is glossed over due to rapid-fire cuts and tight shots. Let us see the thing. We want to soak it in.
All-in-all the iOS and iPhone has settled into a mundane state of existence over the past couple of years. Now with a refreshing redesign, powerful, secure tech, and primo optimization the phone is where it should be, but the messaging is lackluster. I don’t sense pride in Apple’s work. I sense complacency.
There are seemingly a bajillion Mac ads in my YouTube reasearch. Some are quite bomb and others fall flat. I want to focus on the latest line of MacBook Pros, which is what I am typing this post on. There are two ads in particular, one that I think succeeds and one that is more inline with the iPhone.
Up first is the reveal commercial. I’m pretty sure I saw this on TV on Sunday night during The Walking Dead. If it never ran, oh well. It’s profoundly effective and reminiscent of an older Apple. Running through the legacy of portable Macs clearly shows pride in not only the company’s history, but in the future of their laptops as well. Whether you enjoy the new line of machines or not, this ad sticks with you. Nostalgia is used effectively, while letting the audience look ahead at an exciting future.
Bonus points for including the manilla envelope beneath the MacBook Air in the ad. Apple knows that was their best.
The second ad matches a lot of my complaints from above. It’s too fast and up close. In your face with the wrong kind of attitude. It’s effective at showing the Touchbar and that it exists. More so than the Face ID ads that don’t even show Face ID. Taking time to show it off and slowing down gets noticed. We aren’t all in a hurry to see what “replaced” the function keys.
This whole post may be a look at Apple’s ad-entity, but looking at the competition helps frame Apple’s current presentation I think. The first ad is from Samsung and was made in response to the iPhone X.
It’s cheeky. Competition is firing up and Samsung doesn’t want people to forget their shiny flagship admist the iPhone shuffle. The ad is playful enough. Reminds me of the old PC vs Mac ads or the newer iPad ads that jab at the competition. It’s marketing 101 (I think, I never took marketing 101). I’d like to direct you to Quinn from Snazzy Labs’ tweet about the ad. It sums up my feelings wholly.
This last competitor ad is probably the most “Apple” ad I have ever seen that Apple never made. It is A1.
The music, the animated machine parts, the reveal. It’s a sexy ad. I remember Twitter reacting along the lines of “Microsoft just out ‘Appled’ Apple.” It’s kinda true. Now, we are supposed to be able to buy a fancy iMac Pro this month (I doubt it makes the window) and a new Mac Pro in 2018. The reveal for the iMac Pro had signature Apple taste. You could sense the energy and pride in its presentation on stage. Even the sizzle take is top notch. Why? Because it takes its time to reveal the machine itself. The angles, the color, the size–It all speaks to the consumer about the machine. It’s a beast that you’ve been waiting for.
Is Apple doomed? No. They are on track to have made a trillion dollars. Nothing can seem to stop them. They’re fine. But as an Apple consumer of the last twelve years, I am concerned for their direction. MacOS has shrunk as iOS has devoured the mind of the company. In that hyperfocus on mobile design, complacency has won out. The overhaul in physical design of the iPhone is a fantastic sign toward waking up out of this catatonic slumber. Word of the new Mac Pro and its modular nature kindles hope. I think Apple is on the verge of a shift back to peak form.
Hopefully, looking at these ads has been fun and shown you where I see Apple at for the moment. Their current state shows a few ruffles in the feathers. Nothing to get in a fuss about, but enough to let the imagination wander. Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll have a new favorite Apple ad.