Just when the Mac was getting a little out of sight and out of mind and hints were being dropped that the iPad Pro was the computer of the future, Apple has launched a new, detailed ad campaign to remind the world that the company has not forgotten about its computer division just yet. The Cupertino giant has launched a new ad campaign to highlight its Mac range, called “Behind the Mac.” But does it work?
Slices of special lives
Apple has released four ads in the campaign so far, all titled, “Behind the Mac”. Three out of the four ads have a similar storyline and show how Mac notebooks (we use the term “MacBook” and “Mac” here to cover all Mac notebooks in the ad– it is simpler that way) help them in their daily lives, whereas the other ad is a combination of several different slices from the entire campaign (clearly there will be other ads in this line – these are just the first three).
All wired up with Grimes
As the name suggests, the one-minute-five-second ad features the famous singer/songwriter Grimes. It begins with Grimes sitting on the floor with her MacBook. She then moves to untangle her MacBook charger from a cluster of wires, plugs the charger in and starts typing something on her MacBook (credit to Apple for not hiding the wire-y mess, and showing adaptors too). The spot then shows Grimes sitting on the floor and working on her laptop. The highlight of the ad is Grimes’ monologue in which she is telling how she writes all her music, edits all her music videos, how technology has advanced since she started creating music, how the process has become substantially easier and more affordable, how working on the floor and not in a professional setup is important for her and her music. And how anyone can do this because now everyone has the tools to do it. Along with the monologue, the begins text also appears on the screen introducing Grimes, how all her music begins on a Mac and how by creating her own art from start to finish she shows the power of controlling her vision. Followed by the words “Make something wonderful, behind the Mac.” Playing in the background is Grimes’, “That’s What Drugs Are For” song.
Snapping away with Bruce Hall
This ad features, Bruce Hall, a legally blind man who is a photographer (yes!). Much like the Grimes ad, the one-minute-nine-second ad shows how the Mac helps Hall in his daily life. The ad begins with Hall in the frame, working on his MacBook. He then zooms into a picture to see the details. He holds the screen on the MacBook close to his eyes, to see the picture that he has taken. Then a series of pictures taken by Hall appears on the screen after which, Hall is seen laughing while looking at the screen of his laptop. This is followed by text on the screen which says that “Bruce Hall’s photos are part of the permanent collection in the Library of Congress”, and “ Make something wonderful, behind the Mac.” In his monologue, Hall says that he takes photographs because he uses cameras and optical devices to see, and mentions how the Mac has helped him do things he would not have been able to do a decade ago. The ad has a very subtle tune as the background music throughout.
Hitting the road with Peter Kariuki
In this one-minute-nine-second ad, the protagonist is Peter Kariuki, an entrepreneur and an app developer from Africa. The ad starts with a silhouette of Kariuki who opens his MacBook and starts typing on the keyboard. He talks about how the roads of Africa are very dangerous and how he and his business partner developed an app to know about the quality of the driver one will be traveling with. He tells how the app monitors the drivers when they are on the road and teaches them safe driving habits to help them become better drivers. He then brings the Mac into the spotlight and says it is amazing how much one can build with a Mac, and how, especially with coding, how he can build anything by just imagining it and how the Mac is a very powerful tool which can help one share one’s ideas with others. This is followed by a few lines on the screen which mention, “Peter Kariuki’s app is helping make the roads safer for everyone,” followed by “Make something wonderful, behind the Mac”.
So much happens Behind the Mac
Unlike the first three ads that focus on one person and showed how the Mac helps them do what they do in their daily lives, this one-minute-nine-second ad features different people creating their own kind of art behind the Mac. There are supposed to be 12 different stories for this “Behind the Mac” ad campaign, and this ad seems to have taken bits from all these different stories and stitched them all together to make one ad. So we see, Grimes, Bruce Hall, Peter Kariuki and bits and pieces from their ads in this compilation. There are people from different walks of life – artists, musicians, volunteers, and we even spotted famous Indian composer AR Rahman (we are so waiting for his story in the series) – using the Mac. Some are completely visible, whereas in some cases, only a part of their faces are visible, generally above a Mac. The ad shows diverse emotions of people while using the Mac – laughter, tension, fear, et al. This ad also ends with the same text which says, “Make something wonderful, behind the Mac”, followed by the company’s logo. It has the “Story of an Artist” by Daniel Johnson playing in the background.
Simply brilliant stories but what about the Macs?
One of the things that we have always appreciated about the ad campaigns from the Cupertino tech giant is the fact that Apple keeps its ads simple most of the times and this campaign blends seamlessly with the same stream. “Behind the Mac” is a very ‘basic’ ad campaign which has user testimony as its foundation. Yes, the company has used the good old testimonial card to bring back the memories of the Mac to the viewers.
One of the greatest things about this ad campaign is that Apple has brought in the word of people from different circles of life. Unlike many brands that pick up one celebrity face and build their campaigns around them, Apple has gone with a blend of some popular and some not-so-popular faces in this ad campaign. We love the idea as this shows how the MacBook fits in everyone’s life – it is shown on the recording floor, on a desk, and even being carried around on a bike – and how the device is used not just by successful, famous celebrities, but also by seemingly ‘ordinary’ people. The only thing required is a will to make something (as the ads repeatedly mention) and a MacBook (duh!).
The series of ads also earns brownie points for making all three different ads independent yet very well connected to each other – the “Make something wonderful” line binds them all together, as does the flow of the ads, which lead up to that line.
That said, there are a few things that did not go down too well ‘Behind the Mac.’ As these ads are testimonies of people who use the product, the monologues by these people were very important for the ads. The only problem we had here was the fact that these monologues talked too much about the persons and too little about the device. While there was some mention of the product in the Bruce Hall and Peter Kariuki’s ad, the monologue by Grimes did not have much of Mac in it. If these testimonies were to go on radio, it would have been difficult to guess that this is an ad campaign for the Mac. Fortunately, the videos of these ads show how the device blends into the lives of its users and connects the dots between their words and the product.
Another point that needs mentioning is that while Apple does not make a point of mentioning specs and hardware, we actually did not see much of the product in the ads, nor were its key features or functions really highlighted. Yes, these were ads that showed how the Mac blended into the lives of people, but it would have been nice to see them doing something really amazing on the device. The most striking feature of the device that actually has stayed with many people is Grimes’ tangle of wires, which we are not sure is the greatest ad for it, although some would say that it also shows how the Mac can be connected to just about anything.
And well, call it nitpicking but we have always appreciated how the company pays attention to detail, so we are a little surprised at how one of the ads has a different duration – the Grimes ad was 1:05 minutes long while the other three were 1:09 minutes each.
People? Yes, but product?
Apart from a few misses here and there, Apple’s ad game has been generally very strong. And while the new “Behind the Mac” ad campaign does take the company’s ad legacy forward, it does come up short of pour expectations in some regards. Do not get us wrong, the ads are not bad. They tell a story, create an emotional connect with well-told monologues, but we are more likely to remember the great stories that these people told us rather than the Macs that are believed to have made these stories possible. It is early days and we are sure there will be more ads in this campaign, but at this moment, even for a company which does not push numbers and features or bombard viewers with information, these ads seem very laid back and a little fuzzy as far as focus goes. We think they are great for the people featured in them, but for the Mac? We are not so sure.
The stories were wonderful and inspiring. The core idea was on point. And so were the people in these ads. But somehow in this wonderful concoction, guess what often gets lost? The product.
In our (Mac)Books, this makes the campaign a bit of a miss, by Apple standards. Just like this pun.