Apple launches poetic new iPad Air campaign: 'What will your verse be?'

Apple just debuted a new iPad Air commercial and campaign centered around poetry and what it means to be human. Called "What will your verse be?" it once again ties into Apple's "intersection of technology and liberal arts" theme by acknowledging the importance of science, but praising the achievements of the human soul. The ad is complemented by a page on Apple.com that shares some verses, from the top of the world to the depth of the ocean. The voice is Robin Williams from the film Dead Poets Society:

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

It's beautifully shot and gorgeously produced. Depending on how you feel about Apple, and about advertising, you could see it as following in the same tradition as the "Think different" campaigns "here's to the crazy ones" and of the iPad 2's "Technology alone is not enough", full of bold, provocative, inspiring images and jargon. Or you could see it as over the top and out of touch.

It's going to take me a few more viewings to figure out how I feel about it. Meanwhile, let me know what you think.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 42 comments. Add yours.

stevesup says:

Very nice. Apple's version of the "Be all you can be" ads, minus the guns.

Nathan Lott says:

It almost sounds like Robin Williams doing the voice over.

ShameerMulji says:

It is, isn't it? I thought it was.

Michelle Weiler says:

It is Robin Williams. It is from a scene in Dead Poets Society where he recites Whitman to the boys in his class.

cransmi says:

Call me a sucker if you'd like, but it really worked for me. The ad was exactly what folks like Ben Thompson have been looking for again from Apple. If I can get a chill from an ad, then I call it brilliant.

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Photogoofer says:

Sounds like Robin Williams narrating. Best part is it shows scenes of The Ohio State Marching Band "The Best Damn Band in The Land". I've been shooting their performances over the past several years. Check them out on You Tube. Some pretty creative stuff for a college marching band.

svfd757 says:

TBDBITL always brings it!!

khobia2 says:

Great. Nice job Apple ignore the competition and just show the usefulness of the iPad and the diversity of folk who use it making their lives better.

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Rene Ritchie says:

Updated: It's Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society.

Dev from tipb says:

To answer your Twitter question "aspirational, or over the top?"

Yes.

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Jenny349 says:

Once again, well done Apple!!

Jessica Golden says:

Is the music off of Malick's "To The Wonder" soundtrack?

AndroidArmageddon says:

My iPad Air continues to crash, even with the latest iOS 7.1 beta 3 Safari drives me nuts including Chrome. My iPad Air restarts at random and its clear they should have put an extra GB of Ram in here instead of spending all of that cash on advertising.

Antonlw says:

Are you really that thick, Or are you trolling? I can see your problem from your first sentence. You're using beta software. -_-

AndroidArmageddon says:

The question is if you are that thick? No I'm not a troll. I have used ever version of iOS 7 up to the most current beta and they all crash as evidenced on the apple support forums here:

https://discussions.apple.com/message/24487630?ac_cid=tw123456#24487630

I love my apple devices but there is a major problem with iOS 7

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betsyfromtexas says:

As an English teacher, i love it! We need more poetry in our lives and less gadgets.

SwimSwim says:

Looks interesting, love the footage! But it doesn't tug at the heartstrings as much as Apple's previous Christmas ad. Also, there's one thing making me twitch: that guy trying to grab some video of some sort of waterfall (Niagara falls, is it?), and he has all that equipment and gear on his iPad...

If you're going to go through all that effort to snatch the perfect video, why no just invest in a professional camera? I'm sure the iPad Air's camera is fine for casual users (as much as I despise people who take photos/videos on tablets of any kind), but seriously, going through all that effort, why not pick a camera that will "wow" instead of just being average?

Still, nice ad, and far better than what Microsoft is chucking out at present.

asuperstarr says:

Nice commercial!

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mangoldm says:

I want to like it, as it is a welcome oasis from the desert of loud, fast-cut ad hustle we usually see. But it feels preachy and pompous to me, observing these touching humans with an anthropologist's eye.

Ides of Buster says:

The video looks great. However the message or inspiration it endeavors to convey is lost on my poetically challenged brain.

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cardfan says:

It does a good job at propping up the brand that is Apple. Even though the vast majority of people don't use ipads in the ways shown, it gives that perception that it's worthwhile to buy.

That's important. Because I'm not really finding it worthwhile to spend hundreds on. I really enjoy the macbook pro I got though.

jabbaspalace84 says:

This is the first Apple ad where my initial reaction was, "OK...now they've taken it too far." It's seemingly directed at those who don't know what iPads are and need the ol' inspirational introduction. But to the 95% of previous model owners and potential buyers - and anyone with a skeptical eye - it may come across as needlessly fluffing themselves up. Just have a dude standing there with some cute music playing and have him tell us, "It's the new iPad. Don't need to say much else. Because internet. *Apple logo*"

svfd757 says:

As always, go Buckeyes!!! TBDBITL representing well!

WAM 1 says:

"Of cities filled with the foolish"....someone want to tell me why Apple decided to show a
WOMAN IN CHURCH for that line. It must have been planned, it must have been discussed, it must have been on a storyboard before shooting....It's amazing how so many..... take so many shots at God fearing men and women....DOPES!

Brian Deriso says:

great observation, I agree with you about it being premeditated. I've seen the ad a fewtimes and never noticed it until watching again after smoking marijuana.

Kevin Selle says:

Do we know if the ad was shot on an iPad?

zdn1042 says:

Apple's on a roll with all their commercials lately. My favorite is still the Misunderstood ad but this is also very nice.

Clyde Magee says:

Cool!

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tedwed says:

Has anyone considered the fact that Apple has only 1 single and sole purpose in its existence as a GIANT company? That purpose is to accumulate as much money as they possibly can in as short a time span as they can. They will do it by "pulling at your weak-minded heartstrings" or making you feel like they have some bigger, more human purpose that will cause you to believe in them like you might believe in something worth fighting for. Something worth fighting for is your freedom, or your family, or the cornerstone of human existence (i.e. not posting pictures of your dog on a public website that no one cares about anyway). Remember, Apple (and every other huge company for that matter) exist SOLEY for the purpose of accumulating as much money and power as they can by whatever MEANS they can and it is all to OUR peril. Ask the people in their subcontractor factories in China or Taiwan how much they love sacrificing their lives so that you might be able to use an "app" that turns your house lights on and off while you are getting drunk watching a football game (or better yet while you are in a poetry reading with some of your high-brow pretend friends pretending to be intellectual). Keep drinking the Kool-Aid Apple lemmings!

Ross Nicholson says:

I wrote the ad copy, not for Apple, but to fight against suicide, silly me, what could I do? I added this bit (sans Uncle Walt's contribution of course) to push the "project" toward the light. Sure Apple makes money, most of us do. Apple is the world's biggest company and we want it that way. We want to reward Apple because of Steve Jobs, because of love for technological advancement, for purpose, for doing, to do more, to be more, that essence driving our great enterprise, this country, forward.
Cynicism has it's place--off to one side. Me? I wanna barrel through, to climb those heights on steady legs and return down to sleep in peace. As Zummy once said, "Why not the best?"

David Crutcher says:

This is the best commercial I've ever seen. It deserves a Clio as I love it and I think the people who made it are really good at what they do.

John Hoetjes says:

I see this as a great campaign. Robin Williams was a great choice. Love it.

djsodjskdksj says:

I think I'm in the minority here, but I absolutely hate this commercial. I hate it so much that I went looking for an article about it so I could comment. Every time it comes on I mute or turn off the television. How vain, how narcissistic do the people at Apple have to be to make the claim that their product is the at the same time a mechanism for the expression of human life at its most sublime as well as itself a pinnacle of that sublimity? This commercial is disrespectful to science and engineering, but more importantly, so off the charts out of control pretentious and arrogant that I want to put my new iPad (which I like!) in a blender and never buy an apple product for the rest of my life. And another thing, poetry is why we endure the mundane keep showing up to our crappy jobs? Please. Who reads poetry? The reasons we all endure are much more complicated and nuanced than that and it's off putting to me that Apple suggests otherwise (yeah I know it's from the movie but still). Whelp that's my rant!

Ross Nicholson says:

Wow, well, I'm sorry you think so. I wrote the ad copy, not for Apple, but to save a fictional character from suicide. Enduring the mundane we all endure has its consequences, foremost among 'em is our blindness for what is un-mundane. Read 200 poems you have never read before, then come back. Ask Siri.

Robert Wallis says:

As usual in any public forum there will be those who misinterpret and misunderstand what is being said. We have commenters on here who see these ads as a form of brainwashing in the name of commerce, and those who sidetrack off onto another route. Still others see this as a way to seduce us into a souless technology, and then there are the curmudgeons who detest poetry in general. What is being missed in all the misguided rhetoric is what using a gadget is supposed to accomplish. What the ad does so well and elegantly is to explain that freeing one's mind to roam and explore expands the voice of humanity in literally a poetic fashion by making the tool called technology a natural extension of the self, one that becomes intuitive and thereby transcending the mechanical aspect of "tool" use. The technology itself becomes a tool to use and not a controlling aspect of life. It's not what it is, it's what you do with it that counts. The things one can do are limited only by the imagination of the soul, and that is poetry, which makes a damn nice tie in.

Mike Cogan says:

This is the worst add ever. I expect a lot more from Apple!!

Ross Nicholson says:

Apple's got to move a lot more than just customers buying stuff. Apple's got to move our entire civilization and in the right direction, when it wants to slip around and go in any direction it wants. Guidance. That's the real power--the power to move men's minds with the will and conviction to endure the unendurable mundane trivialities because you can see that horizon, and you know where you're going, because you are following your heart's desire.
Get off course, and lose your way, stuck in some eddy going nowhere? Well, paddle. Find the main current through your life. It's there, you needn't stay lost forever. Sure iPad is just a tool, but for those lost, directionless, akimbo, iPad can be your paddle. It might just be the tool you need, eh?
And what will it cost? Will it cost you your soul? Paddles don't kill souls, people do. So persevere. Pick up the tool, and persevere.

Tom Florestano says:

That is worst voice ive ever listened to in a commercial and would never buy product because of it

Pablo Antonio says:

I hate this commercial but for reasons not stated by any posters on this board.
Now, I understand that two right minded people can view the same thing and draw vastly different conclusions, so there are those who my commentary won't resonate with.
And that's okay.
This ad speaks passionately of the human race, citing medicine, law, business, engineering…as noble pursuits, necessary to sustain life…the narrator's voice at times, grave, passion filled, emotive, gushing, lyrical...while the background imagery depicts various people of diverse nationalities in a variety of acts.
But not one black face. Not even on the periphery. Not even in the college marching band segment. And I know many black people who use this product professionally.
A 90 second ad filled with soaring rhetoric designed to elicit feelings within the viewer. And it may have had me save for this, in my mind, grave and pointed omission. The question then becomes: Is omission a form of racism today?
My answer would be 'Yes', based on the feelings this commercial elicited in me.

Koga2930 says:

I can't stand these commercials... way over the top, and in general I just mute my TV whenever I hear one come on. It's just an iPad for crying out loud. The content of the commercials is irrelevant to what Apple is and really just turns me off.