Dissecting Apple's iPad Air TV Ad: "What Will Your Verse Be?"

Earlier this month, Apple released a new television ad for the iPad air (watch below). I get that it's the point of all commercials to suck you in as a captive viewer, but this is really one of the ads you can't help but pay close attention to. I credit that to the fact that this ad begins in silence. Not pure silence, you've got some wind blowing and other audio of that sort, but there are no words for the first 12 seconds. You almost don't notice this because of the beautiful landscapes and scenery you're looking at instead. It's visually stimulating to say the least, but more happens in 90 seconds than just stunning images and backgrounds. A few other commenters have written this ad off as too-much, cliche or typical of Apple to go so "over the top". I'll admit, I felt the same way the first time I saw it. It's easy to roll your eyes and think... beauty, poetry, the human condition, blah blah blah, are you serious Apple? Just sell me an iPad and cut it with the touchy-feely crap. But the ad came on again and again and there I would sit in awe of those beautiful mountains, feeling my creative juices begin to stir and eventually, my feelings changed. So basically, the ad worked.


Here are some things the ad does particularly well:

1. Juxtaposition

You could argue that juxtaposition is the driving force behind the entire ad concept. With Robin William's speech from Dead Poets Society as voiceover throughout the duration of the ad, we both see and hear the constant intersection of technology, mankind and culture. By placing an iPad Air on top of a mountain, at the edge of a waterfall and underwater in a coral reef, we see worlds colliding--the natural and the manmade. But it doesn't feel invasive or wrong. In fact, it feels quite the opposite--powerful, creative and totally right. In this footage, nature and technology are living in harmony and mankind is thriving. Who doesn't want that?

2. Challenges the definition of poetry

There are a lot of different people featured in the ad--engineers, athletes, dancers, musicians, mountaineers, architects and children. They are all working on something and the implication here is that they are all doing what they're doing for a bigger and greater purpose (hint: it's their verse!). Hockey players using the iPad Air to strategize their next play--poetry. Engineers making advancements in wind power technology--poetry. Storm chasers tracking an incoming swell--poetry. DJs playing for a crowd of young EDM fanatics--poetry. The interesting thing here is that the ad does not focus on an end product. Instead, it showcases the creative process. The message is not this is what an iPad can do for you rather, this is what you can do for the world with an iPad.

image: digitaltrends.com

3.  Sparks the viewer

For a perceptive viewer, I think the ad sparks equal parts wanderlust equal parts inspiration to get out there and start innovating, whatever that means for you. The commercial ends, literally, with a challenge to the viewer: "What will your verse be?" I know, I know, cue the collective groan from the audience... And I guess that is where the ad takes a huge risk and in the mind of some, fails in doing so. But I think we can all agree that if any company can toe the line of cliché and still get away with it, it's Apple. And despite that potential shortcoming, the ad succeeds in a major way by advertising its product in a supporting-actor role, so to speak. The message Apple promotes is that no matter what you do, the iPad air is your perfect companion. But by not highlighting any apps or specific capabilities of the iPad, the human projects take center stage. It's subtle and slightly subversive but by doing that, the iPad steals the spotlight without you even realizing it... And isn't that the mark of a great ad? It's storytelling at its finest. It's something that clicks so effortlessly, you can't fully realize or explain it's power and influence.

What do you think about the ad? I'll be curious to read and discuss your comments below.

Also, check out two more ads I've been enjoying and thinking about by Google and P&G.