First there was the 1-minute wordless Apple FaceTime spot set to Louis Armstrong music featuring the intimate moments in family life which can now be shared over distances thanks to this new iOS4 technology. Fortune online is calling Apple's new commercials for FaceTime "heartbreaking." Spolier warning: nobody gets any bad news. As a matter of fact, in two out of the four spots, the characters in fact receive good news. In the other two, things are bittersweet at worst and basically all the ads have happy endings. We think the emotional term the business-minded folks over at fortune were looking for was "heart-warming." Hey, it's July -- it must have been the heat (wave) going to their heads. Perhaps, Philip Elmer-DeWitt, no matter how good his in-depth of knowledge of Apple, is thinking of this heartbreaking iPhone 4 FaceTime ad. In any event, the misnomer is evidence of how little premium our society puts on emotional literacy. Or phrased less pretentiously: being able to name what we're feeling. Put more vividly: heartwarming = "I'm expecting a baby," heartbreaking = "I lost the baby." As the messenger usually gets hung, perhaps best to leave miscarriages out of marketing. That said, who knows what kind of deep buy-in would-be customers might have were they to see how even troubling news is a part of life's rich fabric and lo, without our hero product they might not have been there to support a loved one in need.
Overall and in sum, the creative approach and execution of these ads is bang-on: intimate, human but never quotidian. While quiet and without music to skew the emotions, the pieces are even a bit awkward. Such is life itself.
We're a tad disappointed not to see video call communication involving deaf folks not get foregrounded play in this round of spots. Especially with this iPhone 4 FaceTime service coming on line that bridges the gaps between the hearing and the deaf. This video is pretty heartwarming if we do say so ourselves.
As for the spot titled "Meet Her" our take is that the actor playing the grandfather comes off a bit Uncle Remus and seems to have been cast according to an unchecked stereotype. If his performance had knocked it out of the park, that would be one thing. But the character just seems to be out of it. Barely reactive. The awkwardness of messy, human existence is one thing, the alzheimer'sesque unbelievability of grandpa's read on the line "incredible" is quite another. It's almost creepy how he responds to his son's question. It jangles the transference of son-to-father making those Jurassic feelings well up saying "Um, hello, Dad? I asked you a damn question -- how does it feel to be a grandfather. Have you ever really cared about me at all?"
And we note that three out of the four spots have women front and center broadcasting themselves to the men holding the iPhone 4. To git a bit old school feminista here, looks like pops has them ladies in the palm of his hand -- right where he wants 'em *wink*. From a practical standpoint, the ad "Big News" might have come across better were the screens swapped and the new papa reacting to the news. In any event, hey, the first adopters of iPhone 4 units are probably going to be guys -- and dads, a marketing target that I resemble with iPhone 4 in my possession at present. So by all means, these ads should target the guy demo and do in fact seem aimed there.