Apple is almost certainly gearing up to launch a bigger iPhone 6 next month. Their competition, Samsung, is gearing up to launch an update to their big phone as well. One of the many differences between the two is that Apple hasn't just posted four videos teasing the name and announcement date of their big phone. Apple hasn't posted four videos that, frankly, come off like rejected Saturday Night Live parodies of Apple's recent ads. Apple hasn't posted four videos, one of which equates a phone to a "sexy secretary in a short skirt", and another that shows a musician making music with everything but her phone. This difference, between the companies, the products, and the way in which they choose to present them to the world, is worth exploring.
Apple has posted iPhone 5c commercials in the past that celebrate diversity and connection and color, iPhone 5s commercials that showcase empowerment, and iPad Air commercials that — wait for it — show musicians actually using iPads to make music. All of these commercials either debuted at, or followed after, the official announcement events. Apple doesn't tease. They don't send out invitations to their events until a week or so beforehand, and even then make the invitations as cryptic as possible. Not only don't they over promise, they typically don't promise at all. They leave everything to the delivery.
We had a great Vector podcast this week where Ben Thompson, Guy English, Dave Wiskus, Georgia Dow and I discussed whether copying was illegal, unethical, or just smart business, and whether innovation or imitation ultimately better served consumers. (You might be surprised at how the discussion went.) Wiskus, who's had his software designs copied in the past, offered this insight: Copying what something looks like is easy; copying how it works is hard.
Apple's ads don't just look a certain way. They don't just feature certain people. There's a lot of work behind them. There's a thought process and plan in place, whether you like them or not, that has depth and purpose and experience.
Copying the tone or the look or the shots or the structure is easy. Copying the feeling conveyed, the message delivered, the experience provided — that's all really, really hard.
Yes, I know, I'm talking about advertising and media literacy again, and some of you hate that and hate me for doing it, but I believe it to be incredibly important. I believe it's something worth doing and discussing, and I very much appreciate all of your feedback, even if you deeply love the companies I criticize and want to make sure I know it.
Mostly, as a consumer, I want better videos from better competitors showcasing better competing products. I don't want sexism or sophistry. I don't want a joke. I want a challenge. I want something that, when Apple rolls out their inevitable iPhone 6 ad campaign. That way we all get better products from everyone. Right?