Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The X-Factor

I consider myself something of an advertisement aficionado. That is not to say that I enjoy all ads, but rather that I like the concept of advertising. It’s a blank canvas on which motion graphics, video, music, text and any number of other elements can culminate in an attempt to sell me on a product or service. The thirty-second TV spot is a playful limitation in which an ad firm can experiment.

Apple’s advertising has traditionally been some of the best out there. It has been recognised the world over and hailed as an example of what good advertising looks like. From the iconic “1984” Superbowl spot (which was more like a very short film) to the “Think Different” campaign, and right through the “Mac vs. PC” ads and the ubiquitous iPod silhouette campaign, Apple is the king of buzz (with the help of TBWA Chiat/Day, of course).

I think Apple’s recent ads have lived up to this precedent. “There’s an app for that” is a phrase oft heard in non-tech circles, for instance. “We Believe” is an ad that isn’t so much regarding the iPad, but Apple itself, and it works marvellously. Recent iPhone ads are also particularly effective, with their shallow depth-of-field creating an air of quality, and the careful framing emphasising the use of speech when communicating with Siri.

A couple of days ago, Apple released a new ad for the iPod touch, and it feels somehow different. It has all of the right elements: the white backdrop, the indie pop soundtrack, a youthful cast and high production values. But something about it is missing. An indescribable x-factor.

Consider some previous iPod touch ads, such as “The Funnest iPod Ever”. It has similar elements, but is immediately more engaging. The music is that much stronger, the action more fulfilling. Aside from the hands in the foreground, there isn’t a cast. But that’s okay, because the ad is strong enough without one. Likewise for “All Kinds of Fun”, the penultimate iPod touch ad. The inclusion of a cast cannot be the issue, however, as this old iPod nano ad demonstrates. It has all the right ingredients, resulting in an excellent spot.

The new iPod touch ad lacks the magic of these ads, for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. It could be the tempo, or the people, or the editing. There’s something missing, and since the ad will be playing frequently for the next month, it’s bound to irritate me every single time.