AdWeek has a stellar feature on Apple’s iPhone TV advertisements, spanning the multiple years and devices since the first ad for the original iPhone launched during the 2007 Oscars. If you haven’t seen it yet, go check it out for a fun walk down memory lane. I completely lost myself this morning in watching each of the 84 spots created by TBWA/Media Arts Lab - the same group responsible for the “Get a Mac” ads starring Justin Long (Mac) and John Hodgman (PC). It was great to revisit some of my favourite ads that I remember having an impact on me at the time. Most notably for me;
Looking beyond nostalgia, the walk through the iPhone chronology via advertising floored me in seeing the evolution of the technology over time, as well as the evolution of the messaging taking viewers through the awareness/consideration/preference journey very subtly over time.
In the first year’s ads a lot of the focus was showcasing how the iPhone worked, and trying to create some contextual links linking it to the iPod and its popularity, but always closing on the ringing phone to help create that awareness for that iPod-esque internet-enabled phone. Later ads moved into testimonials and use cases to help people visualize how the iPhone was different, and to consider how its capabilities might apply to them.
With the release of the iPhone 3G, the 2008 ads seemed focused more on use cases (specifically a few related to business use of the device, presumably to shed some of the “toy”/iPod sentiment and position the device as something for business too). Oh, and Apps. Lots of Apps.
With the app-focus, we see the ads starting to try to nudge folks further into the realm of consideration and preference as “can’t live without” type apps drive interest in Apple’s ecosystem. And from there on, content of the iPhone TV ads has largely been feature-specific; seldom, if ever, touching on the hardware or its specs.
Across the board the ads showcase specific uses and scenarios to help people compare it to what they’re using now, and ultimately to imagine themselves in those scenarios.
And yet, despite the subtle evolution in the message, there’s a really remarkable fidelity to simplicity and elegance, and the Apple brand. The lion’s share of the iPhone ads are incredibly simple in concept, content, and execution.
From the solid backdrop with phone and finger, the very few words, the deliberate pace and ample pausing in the delivery - there’s a lot of white space created - both visual and aural - to draw in and focus on the experience. The content speaks about the benefits of ownership and what it might be like, or how your world might be improved. The content is highly personal and the distinct style over the years is warm and inviting, and mirrors the simplicity Apple projects in just about everything they put their name on.
Even more remarkable to me, is that through 5 long years of television advertising, you don’t find much at all in the way of overt competitive positioning when you watch them all in retrospect. Even in the “If you don’t have an iPhone” series of ads where the horn-blowing seems its highest, the spots zero-in on Apple proprietary features like FaceTime, the AppStore, and iTunes to differentiate.
Never slamming other devices; always focused on propping themselves up. The absence of FUD-slinging impresses me, especially in light of Samsung’s recent “Samsunged” campaign where they lightheartedly jab at the trendy, creative, urban-camping iSheep, and their disappointment in a phone that “looks like last year’s” and spending time in detention-like lines awaiting the next big thing.
For what it’s worth, I think Samsung did a great job in that campaign and didn’t go offside in that they poked fun at the Apple elitists in a way that most people could look at and say “yeah, Apple fans are kinda like that”. They were careful not to attack product or features or capabilities, but prodded a stereotype that people would recognize and associate with Apple. So for that, kudos to Samsung.
But with that said, it’s still a clear shot over the bow. Shockingly Apple hasn’t felt the need to do that. Granted with the sheer volume of new devices coming out from the various Android handset makers, how could Apple even identify a particular device or competitor to single out in an attack ad. It’s iPhone vs. everything else, so attacking would be rather futile.
Now we may see a different song and dance with iPad ads over time with the Galaxy Tab and Kindle Fire (and maybe even BlackBerry PlayBook if the new OS is as big an improvement as I’ve heard) positioning themselves as solid 1:1 competitors. Time will tell. That’d be another fun retrospective to sink a morning into.