Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Milk that testimonial!

Hey, it's me, Quivering, again. Turns out that pouring all my money into hedge funds was kind of a bust. Toyota really screwed me on that one. So it's back to the ol' making-fun-of-shitty-ads grind.

Let me introduce you to a new series of commercials from perennial maker-of-commercials Apple Computer. Now, historically, Apple deserves a lot of credit. Their 1984 SuperBowl spot is widely heralded as one of the best in advertising history, and possibly the most famous. Their "Think Different" campaign, although inherently ungrammatical, helped differentiate the Mac from PCs in the consumer's mind. And, more recently, their iPod commercials, which utilized a blend of hip, upbeat music and arresting art direction, propelled Apple from a niche computer company to a mainstream music industry titan.

Apple's latest advertising support of the iPhone, their second campaign for the product, takes a significant change in direction. Here's one in the series:

Pilot: We were departing Chicago in route to Newark, New Jersey, and we were told we were going to have a 3-hour delay.

Hey, we've all been there. Airport delays, even those of the 3-hour variety, are fairly commonplace.

Pilot: Three hours. For an hour and forty-one minute flight.

Big deal. Everyone who has ever flown on an airplane has had bad delays. Three hours, four hours, a full day even. Once, I was in Amsterdam, and they delayed the flight because they couldn't get an exit light inside the cabin to turn off. They had to fly in a mechanic from Detroit to fix it, so they put us all up in a Novotel overnight. It was a 30-hour delay. But you don't see me going out and making some shitty commercial because of it!

Pilot: And as we were sitting there with our engines shut down, I turned on my iPhone and went to

Took 12 seconds to mention the product. Not so good.

Pilot: ...and I saw that the rain showers had already passed the field. At which point, we contacted our dispatcher, and dispatch took another look at the weather...

Bullshit. is more sophisticated than whatever they use to make takeoff and landing decisions at airports? I'm sorry, I've used before, and reliability is not its selling point. I think vacation destination temperature-checking is. If is better than what air traffic control is using, I refuse to fly again. (Good thing it's not.)

Pilot: ... and sure enough, about thirty minutes later, Tower called us and said, "You guys are clear to go."

I hope they reminded you to turn off that cell phone before the flight.

Pilot: And everyone was happy and life was good.

What a sophomoric, artificially tidy way to end the commercial. "Life was good"! "Everybody was happy!" They disabled ground radar and replaced it with an iPhone! With the iPhone in charge, everybody's flight got in an hour early! Then the iPhone cured cancer!

This is just one of the several ads featuring this "just a regular person" testimonial format. What's lame about this concept is that it completely abandons the "cool" persona that Apple's cultivated with colorful, fun commercials like those for the iPod. What's painful about this concept is that it's unblushingly egotistical. The iPhone -- better than an air traffic control tower? Really?

Take a look at the professions of two of the other actors featured in these testimonial iPhone ads: a "mobile-blogging" Ballet Dancer and an Off-Broadway Producer. I guess they couldn't get a professional Cuban Cigar Cutter to do an ad? Get off your hundred-foot high horse, Apple. It's like the entire marketing department eats apricot quail sandwiches for lunch every day.

Another person in one of these ads begins by stating, confidently:

One of the greatest advancements in the history of mankind. Without question.

The jury's still out on this, of course, but I think we can all safely say this falls in the "massive, inexcusable hyperbole" camp. Do you think it's okay to have some fawning statement like that in your ad, Apple, because some random guy said it? You still put it in your commercial, and then you aired the thing! Surely someone at Apple or TBWA Chiat Day realizes how obnoxious that sounds.

There's another issue with this whole campaign, and it's this idea of Apple's supposed invention of some futuristic dream device. "It's the internet... on your phone." "It's The New York Times... on your phone." "You can check the weather... on your goddamned phone." It smacks of goofy ads from the sixties about space-age automobiles, or color TVs. The kind of ads that you look at now and laugh.

50 years in the future, some 12-year old kid's grandfather will say to him, "You know, grandson, when I was a youngster, you couldn't reroute a plane on your phone." And the kid will say, "No, way! That's so stone age!" Then he'll whip out his iWatch, which will have already detected the conversation and called up this iPhone ad on its holographic screen. The kid will watch the ad and think to himself, "God, that is retarded. I really hope someone in the past made fun of that pretentious piece of shit."

Don't worry, snarky little 12-year-old from the future, someone did. Oh, yes, someone did.


Windier E. Megatons said...

And they've got these people standing in front of a curtain in a public place, trying to make you think that these are real people to whom real things happened. Call me crazy, but I'm doubtful of that.

Anonymous said...

Now, Apple has truly started to think too much of itself. They were better as the scrappy little dog company that everyone liked because they weren't Microsoft. But, this is a bit over the top - I don't want my pilots using their iPhones to decide that they should be flying giant tubes in the air - besides, isn't it more than weather that goes into these decisions? Like air traffic, for instance? Also, how the hell did he get his AT&T service to work longer than five minutes? There is just too many problems with this and I weep for the future of marketing.

I read this blog and think it's funny,


Quivering P. Landmass said...

Well, the Ballet Dancer one is actually real. Only reason I know that is that she mentions her ballet blog "" I went there, and it's a real site run by her. So, they may all be real, they may all not be.

I also weep for the future of marketing. Also, I laugh at it.

Windier E. Megatons said...

Is it a real site run by her, or a deep plant site run by Apple? Difficult to tell these days, I think.

Regardless, even if they're real people, early adopters of new Apple products are such huge fans of the company there's virtually no difference between them and paid mouthpieces. And I imagine the cost of the iPhone explains why everyone promoting it has a job that's either high-paying or oddly effete.

Andrew N.P. said...

On going to that ballet blog, I'm gonna have to agree with Quivering. If it's a plant, it's under deeper cover than most CIA agents.

Still, I'm glad you finally brought up this campaign. The thing that scares me is: if "greatest advancement" made it in, how extreme were the testimonials that didn't go live? "The iPhone died for your sins?"

Tyler said...

Part of me wants to cut these ads some slack because they don't start with "one two three four tell me that you want me more," but the more rational part of me rejects them because they are all annoying. Especially the one with the guy who looks up his girlfriend's boss's wife's website or whatever contrivance they've come up with.

Quivering P. Landmass said...

Ok, Apple's being freaks and deleting these ads for some reason (because they are terrible?), so here's a direct link to the ad in question on the website:

There is already a new series of improved ads for the iPhone. Coincidence? Almost surely.

Windier E. Megatons said...

If there's anything that it makes no sense to delete from YouTube even if you're the "intellectual property owner," it's commercials. You're going to reject free publicity? Especially given that most of these ads have 100 "OMG SO FUNNY" comments after them. Maybe Apple found this blog.

Windier E. Megatons said...

Eh, it's still working now that I check it. You probably caught it during maintenance before.