iPhone SE is boring, so are Apple’s ads

My friend Léa received her new iPhone SE yesterday. She sent me a photo of her former iPhone 5S lying next to the new white box. It suddenly reminded me it had been only 10 days since Apple announced this (not very) new iPhone in Town Hall. It was the last time they held release meeting there, as Apple has scheduled to move to its new headquarter building (in a weird spacecraft shape) this winter.

I didn’t “like” her photo. Instead, I typed “Dislike” with a “waving hand” emoji. The iPhone SE is boring. An updated iPhone 5S can’t be a qualified newbie in Apple’s crowded enough product line. We are expecting something more revolutionary.


On March 22, Apple announced new products including iPhone SE. Photo/Mark Prigg

For Apple, “Mass market” is no longer a forbidden term. Obviously iPhone SE is targeting a larger market. With a more developed mobile industry today, Tim Cook needs to look for new customers, or grab some from their competitors’ hands.

This is not a secret any more. Since at least two years ago, I’ve been seeing Apple focus a lot on “public aesthetic”. In Apple’s advertisements, especially its TV commercials produced by advertising agency TBWA, we can see them not only introduce new products, but also reflect what’s in this tech giant’s mind.


1. Trying to be emotional, but super superficial

Early this year, a new Apple commercial came before I watched the Chinese new year gala. In it I saw 58-year-old pop singer Jonathan Lee. He was also featured in New Balance’s TV commercial, produced by a new advertising agency named W. W is famous for its advertising ideas emphasising a lot on feelings, memories and dreams. But sorry, I don’t see any relation between dreams and a pair of New Balance sneakers.

Similarly, I don’t understand how Apple customers can feel they’re buying cool technology products by watching Jonathan Lee and two young people singing Chinese “happy new year” song with an iPad in the girl’s hand. There’s no story and no plot in it. The 1-minute commercial, if without the Apple logo in the end, could be easily used by any other brand. It could be ended by a “Coco-cola wish you a happy new year!” and still make sense.


Click here to watch iPad 2016 Chinese New Year Commercial

I understand Apple’s goal to attract more customers by building some certain “common feelings”. They want new users to go to Apple Stores with the idea “Apple is not just for tech-loving young people”.

Yes, everybody can watch their commercial and sing “happy new year” together, but then, APPLE IS NOT COOL ANY MORE.


2. Changes after Steve Jobs was gone

If looking back, we could see how Apple fell down step by step.

In between 2013 and 2014, Apple started to communicate with customers in a softer way (similar to how I feel about Tim Cook).

Why? The recent generations of Apple products carried hardly any real innovation. Apple needs a new perspective to inform customers what Apple means to them.

Ken Segall, creative director of advertising agency TBWA, Apple’s long term partner, made the iconic “Think Different” Apple commercial with Steve Jobs. He said that Apple’s TV commercials in 2014, including iPhone 5S “Powerful” commercial and iPad “Robin Williams” commercial, both carried common feelings and thus can inspire audience. What they tried to show was very simple: With Apple products, you can achieve your dreams and change your life.

In the “Robin Williams” iPad commercial, Apple used a variety of scenes to show customers how great it is. And the copies are form Dead Poets Society.

Robin Williams Apple iPad Commercial

Yes, these commercials can provoke a sense of identity, but that could never be turned into a “Wow”.

But Apple used to keep wowing us.


3. Apple’s advertising team

Apple’s three most influential commercials must be “Get a Mac”, “1984” and “Think Different“. In 1984’s Super Bowl, the commercial of Macintosh shouted out a war against traditional PC. That directly leaded to a boost of $150 million sales.

Let’s read the copy of “Think Different”. You can still clearly feel Apple’s fearless innovation.

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The Misfits.

The rebels.

The troublemakers.

The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules

And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, quote them, disagree with them,

disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing that you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They push the human race forward.

While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

These commercials were all collaboration of Steve Jobs and TBWA. In 2006 TBWA even founded TBWA/Media Arts Lab(MAL), to exclusively provide service to Apple.

Apple “Think Different” Commercial

However, after more than 10 years’ stable collaboration, everything started to change when Steve Jobs left. He used to attend every regular meeting of TBWA/MAL, and took part in any advertising idea.

Like Apple products, those iconic commercials reflected Jobs’ style and pursuit of quality. However, this couldn’t be sustained after his leaving.

Apple is now planning to separate from TBWA. Since 2013, they have formed an advertising and marketing team of more than 1000 people – but it’s still useless.

The 40-year-old company, without Steve Jobs, started to feel strenuous.


4. Why “shot on iPhone” commercials everywhere?


Photo/Apple World Gallery


I see these huge “shot on iPh one” commercials in almost every city I’ve been to.

They tell you you can shoot fabulous photos with your iPhone. But just like those gym commercials, they make you feel you can get great bodies as fitness trainers. However, actually you can’t.


And I miss Steve Jobs.



If you are interested, here’s some other views on iPhone SE :