Mention the words “iPhone ad” and it is a fair chance that most minds will conjure up something with great imagery, gentle music, and soft colours (most of which are on the lighter side), topped off with maybe a touch or two of humor, all designed to leave you with a pleasant, warm, fizzy feeling, not dissimilar to that which you get when you see a Chris Columbus (Home Alone, remember?) film.
So you can imagine how we felt when we saw the new iPhone 7 ad which went online yesterday – it was akin to walking into a theatre to see a new Home Alone and then getting hit by a new version of Blair Witch. Or picking up a PG Wodehouse book only to find pages from the Game of Thrones. Or wait, final simile – going to watch a Adam West Batman series and instead getting chucked into the Chris Nolan Dark Knight trilogy.
For, let’s get this clear, the new iPhone 7 ad is perhaps the most edgy, gothic marketing video we have seen from the company. Ever. There is zero color – a tribute perhaps to the return of black to the iPhone color range – and there is no heartwarming background score. No, what you have are a series of sounds, magnified to sound almost eerie – it’s like strolling through a forest at night. You start off with the words iPhone 7 (and thank God you do, because otherwise there’s no way you would correlate what follows with the iPhone!), an owl, whose eyes get magnified, then a deer comes into the frame, an outline of a phone emerges from the dark, dual speakers seeming explode into sound, producing ripples in jet black water, raindrops fall in a manner that seems ominous (you know, the sort of rain that precedes the “HE is coming” line, when some particularly formidable villain is about to step on), a boxer flexes muscles, there is lightning and a series of explosions with particles flying everywhere and at the end of it all, you are left with the numbers “9.16.16” referring to the date of arrival of the new iPhone.
We know that each of Apple’s communications are laden with symbolism (that’s why we got Sherlock Holmes to decipher one of them, remember), and the few marketing people we talked to felt the new ad referred to the dual cameras (the two eyes of the owl), the speed (the deer), the water resistance, the dual speakers and the explosive power of the device (the boxer and the explosions towards the end). But all of them agreed that they had not seen an Apple ad like this in terms of sheer darkness. “It is like Harry Potter suddenly decided to become Lord Vader,” one of them said with a laugh.
So is this a new phase in Apple’s marketing language? A move to the Dark Side so to speak? We are not too sure, to be honest, so discordant is the overall tone of the new ad to its predecessors. It is more of a statement in black, we suspect, using the “absence of light” that defines darkness to make an edgy statement. Expect a more gentle version to appear in the coming days, with more color and white space, not to mention a real soundtrack.
But for the time being, we can see a few people nodding in approval at the theme of the new iPhone ad. A certain Anakin Skywalker might well be one of them.