Designed by Apple in California ad

In my English classes today at Metadesign, we watched and critiqued Apple’s Designed by Apple in California TV ad . This ad, which I stumbled on in Fast Company’s CoDesign blog, has bombed with consumers.

The participants gave this feedback:

  • It’s all emotion, they could be advertising anything, which is a turn-off to the more critical viewer, who doesn’t want to be manipulated.t
  • the (old) man’s voice-over evokes paternal, moralistic wisdom, preaching to us, telling us how we should feel; this will only appeal to those who are already, or want to be, true believers
  • You can’t even tell which handheld device is being advertized, as the Apple logo is generally hidden.
  • They’re focusing on the experience, and have crowded out the cutting edge technology that made that experience possible.
  • It’s almost too inclusive, multicultural, young and old – very un-hip to those who want to be a class apart
  • It’s in slow-motion – no change in dynamic, and dark, with Chinese chimes – one of my students said it reminded her of a Chinese funeral

TV ad text:

This is it
This is what matters
The experience of a product
How will it make someone feel?
Will it make life better?
Does this deserve to exist?
We spend a lot of time on a few great things
Until every idea we touch
Enhances each life it touches
You may rarely look at it
But you’ll always feel it.
This is our signature
And it means everything

Mark Wilson in his CoDesign blogpost, In 20 Years, We’re All Going To Realize This Apple Ad Is Nuts, says that the key line “This is it. This is what matters. The experience of a product” should read “…The experience of a person,” because “the experience of a product will never be what matters to a great designer. It’s always been about the experience of a person using that product.” He criticizes the way the ad focuses on people engaging with the product, and says the ad “consecrates” how “people actively turn away from life to engage with their technology”.

I understand that in principle, but don’t agree with the practical application of that maxim. Apple is a technology company. Full stop. The gadgets are still lovely, even if Samsung and the rest are stealing and fast catching up and will perhaps beat Apple in sales one day. But can they beat Apple at design (unless Apple loses its edge) ? To me, a straightforward celebration of intrinsically interesting design and craftsmanship is still the more appealing proposition. Do we really want to see people enjoying gadgets? Especially if seeing them enjoy it is not always a pretty sight? No, come on, geek masters, just show us the damn thing in all its glory.

Launched on the same occasion, the excellent Designed by Apple – Intention ad focuses on design and craftsmanship. Atta boy. It contains the great lines:

If everyone is busy making everything
How can anyone perfect anything?
We start to confuse convenience with joy
Abundance with choice
Designing something requires focus
The first thing we ask is
What do we want people to feel?
Delight. Surprise. Love. Connection.
Then we begin to craft around our intention
It takes time
There are a thousand no’s for every yes
We simplify. We perfect. We start over
Until everything we touch enhances each life it touches
Only then do we sign our work
Designed by Apple in California

Branding: Smells, tastes, feels like home

New exciting challenge. Learning about branding for a company I’ll be teaching at. So here’s my first exploration. Bill said: “Branding is about managing how people instinctively react to your ideas and identity.” Interesting. He’s sent me an ad for an insurance company that the company has branded, made by a separate agency. So one look, and you recognize, hey, this is a reference to “High Fidelity“.

They’re turning what Rob loves about Laura into what your average twenty something wants to love about insurance. Smells and tastes like home. A very convincing ad concept.

John Cusack was wonderful in High Fidelity, and I could see how an insurance brand would benefit from channeling the honesty, integrity, quirkiness and human realness of his character. So does the commercial communicate that to the viewer?

They’ve chosen a very different man, obviously. It’s a tough call to cast for a German TV audience. But going at it from my world, after the first two viewings I’m not so sure I like the guy. The problem is (for me) that the monologue sounds too learnt by heart. Has this Berliner really had nothing but trouble with insurances? Recognizing the scene, I’m expecting an authentic rant or declaration of love here. We’re so tuned into authentic emotion these days, it’s very hard to fool us. If you’re selling personality, but you don’t have a star everyone can relate to, it’s going to be risky. Star quality is elusive. I’m trying to think of a German actor I would have cast here… Maybe Jürgen Vogel? Big fan here.

They’ve taken Nora Jones “Sunrise” from “Feels like Home” as the music, which makes perfect sense. She is a true star. Everyone understands her, and she’s here to stay. Just like your coverage. Hopefully.