Apple’s ‘Your Verse’ ad Contains Important Messages

| Editorial

There is more to Apple's new TV ad, "What will your verse be?" than meets the eye. It contains elements that showcase truths about both Apple and its customers that can't be easily dismissed.

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Apple's new TV ad that aired over the weekend, "What will your verse be?," tells a fundamental story that will, at first, likely be misunderstood by many.

Image credit: Apple

But first, let's take a look at the ad itself. It opens with a very neutral feel. While an iPad on a tripod is seen at 0:08, we don't really identify an Apple product until 0:12 -- a virtual eternity in TV advertising.  The suspense, the majesty of the visuals and the fact that the narrator doesn't speak until 0:12 tends to draw us in to the emerging drama. It appeals to our curiosity and delays the sell point until we've absorbed something more fundamental.

The opening contains a promise. Stay with us; you'll be pleased with the result.

Once you see the full ad, you realize that Apple is talking about living life to the fullest and making a contribution. To do that you need the right tools. After all, that's what Apple is all about. It's in Apple's DNA, and the company has never been shy about reminding us about that for the last 30 or so years.

One of the techniques detractors will use is to conveniently forget about what Apple as a company has been trying to achieve for the last three decades. An appropriate amount of cynicism, which itself is routinely used to suggest a sharpness of wit and intellect, can be invoked to suggest that Apple is crassly playing with our emotions.

For most other companies, this might be the case. Companies that have spent their lifetimes trying to seduce us into their wares simply because they were adept at developing some interesting technology might be properly castigated for  abruptly trying to appeal to our emotions. The disconnect between their performance to date and the hasty attempt to appeal to our human side creates a cognitive dissonance that we readily detect.

With Apple, however, that dissonance is not possible. Going back to the the era of Steve Jobs's vision, "Here's to the Crazy Ones," and even before that, we know that Apple has been successful because the company's vision has always been about bring out the best in human beings through the proper and elegant utilization of technology.

Technology Doesn't Magically Improve Us

From a humanistic point of view, however, we know that technology toys don't make us better people. If they did, the world's problems would have gradually disappeared by now, but they haven't. Digital hardware and software don't make us better human beings.

However, for those people who do have something to say, for those people who are compelled to make their microcosm a better place, express themselves, and celebrate the best that humans have to offer, the right kind of tool is a joy to use in the journey.

Microsoft believes that we all want to wake up on Christmas morning, receive an Surface Pro 2 and start building Excel spreadsheets while we sip on some hot cocoa. Slavery to the god of business and money is not something that truly inspires.

Watching Apple's ad, we are reminded that life is all about getting out, doing things, celebrating our time on this planet, and doing something for ourselves and others with passion. As Robin Williams narrates: "...poetry, beauty, romance, love." He continues: the powerful play goes on, and you'll contribute your own verse.

For those people already of good mind to do these things, this ad reminds them that Apple strives to build the very best tools to help write their own verses. It's a simple but strong message that reiterates what Apple has always stood for.

From time to time, Apple needs to remind us of that.

This ad repeats a human truth and a corporate vision that have real meaning. And that meaning can't be simply brushed away by those who never developed the balance of mind and good spirits that this ad celebrates.

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18 Comments Leave Your Own

geoduck

Microsoft believes that we all want to wake up on Christmas morning, receive an Surface Pro 2 and start building Excel spreadsheets

From the look of the Microsoft ads I saw over Xmas I think that’s exactly right. Microsoft makes tools that let you WORK HARDER. Apple makes devices that let you do what you WANT TO DO.

THey just don’t get the difference.

palenoue

While this commercial is great, the one that best reflects my friends and I is “Greetings” (http://tinyurl.com/lrxrp4c)

Klingons in a comic store, Japanese cosplayers… lots of memories there.

Lee Dronick

Well said John. The intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts.

skipaq

While I have some admiration for the ad’s and previous one’s appeal, a tool is still just a tool. The same tool can be used to warm/cool or blow up your home and life. You can write your verse on a tablet made of stone, wood, clay or gorilla glass electronics. One person’s verse is inspiring and the other’s is horrifying. That is fundamentally a moral question. Technology has not and can not make the user a “better” human.

adamC

@skipaq

Since a tool can never make a human a ‘better’ human but it can empower one to enrich his own and the lives of others.

I believe that is Apple’s message.

Perhaps technology enrich my life and perhaps it too helps me to be a better human.

PSMacintosh

I cringed at this ad.
It is one of the worst ads that I have seen in a long time!
It went on…...and on…....and on…....
I was wondering what fool company had paid so such expensive airtime. And when it was finally apparent that it was Apple, I was horrified and sickened.  Yes, actually sickened.  Because of fear that Apple, who I have become invested in some of its stock, is wasting money, losing focus, and showing itself to be fool-hardy and incompetent at marketing.  (I was wondering whether to run out and sell my (tiny amount of) stock, but figure that this ad, in of of itself, will not rock the boat at all.  It’s just a reflection, to me, of bad decisions internally.)
I think it is a big waste of money and time. The message is unfocused and “uncool”.
I consider myself a fairly inventive-type person, poetic, artistic, and a sometimes former fan of Walt Whitman, but I hated this ad. It made me cringed (I haven’t yet determined why).  I even turned off the sound half-way through and tried to look away. It was that obnoxiously over-the-top, sickly sweet, sappy effort to play to emotions.
Tell me how to send a “protest” to Apple to yank this ad (and fire the people responsible) and I will do so.

wab95

John:

Very nicely articulated, sir.

@skipaq:

Your point is well-taken. Technology, and for that matter science, is morally neutral. These may affect our material lives, but they are neutral on whether that effect is beneficial or baneful, and utterly inert in their influence on the human moral compass.

And for good reason. Science and technology are the process and the outcome, respectively, of human investigation, and exist independently of motive and intent. As you’ve said, these are tools, but even more, powerful forces that mould civilisation.

The advert, in quoting Walt Whitman, is about ‘life and identity’ going ‘on’, that is, continuing. This about those contributions that continue, contribute to and enrich life, by ‘contributing a verse’, and not those contributions that destroy and attempt to end it.

What Apple are saying, in my opinion, but echoing John’s, is that for those who wish to dance, to contribute a verse to life’s never-ending poetry, here be tools for the human soul, from a company whose self-assigned mission is to facilitate our contribution to life’s advancement.

From the limited perspective of my life’s work, I couldn’t agree more.

PSMacintosh

I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the concept that the past Macs (including iPads) have been used as great tools.
But it has been us, the users, who have made them great tools.  We’ve found the uses to apply the Macs to and have figured out how to use them to do things that Apple never imagined and never really did much over the years, apart from making the hammer, to assist or support us in our efforts.

Apple hasn’t listened to its users (for the most part). It hasn’t worked with us.  It hasn’t sought our input.  It hasn’t showed up at our gatherings, or studied our uses of the hammer, or even participated very wholeheartedly in our artistic presentations.  (How often has Apple “surveyed” you?)

Apple has been the lucky benefactor of what we have done with the chisel and the fact that we needed a chisel, some chisel, rather than no chisel, to do whatever we could with it. And Apple’s chisel, in spite of its constant crippling, has been enough of a chisel for us to do work with and often still a better chisel than the other chisels on the market.  So we have bought it, rather than the other chisels.
(Of course, Apple also made software that we used as a tool, the tool, as well as the physical machine tool. Even then, it was mostly others software (from 3rd party developers) that made the machine truly useful, innovative, and powerful as a “tool”.)
So I find it very disingenuous for Apple to claim that it really ‘cared’ about us, about our needs, about our desires, about how we used their product. That it was really focused on making the best “tool” for us.
They were very happy that we wanted and used (and bought) their product.  But they didn’t do hardly anything to facilitate our creative efforts, to work with us.
I was there.  I saw the reality of their non-presence.

They largely abandoned user groups, user group meetings, and user-oriented expos.
They have always been resistant to feedback.
They have often taken the hammer and then broken it (hacked off the claws—and all the functionality that those claws had provided), just so the hammer looked slimmer or weighed less.  Throwing out our hard-earned functionality, for some vision of form.  Unilaterially.  Without explanation, notice, input, feedback.  A spit in the face, many times!

For Apple to claim that they have always been in the background “caring” about us and what we were doing with their product, is false.  They have barely cared.  And the few internal employees that had the right mindset were overruled by the need for sales, profits and corporate reorganization.

So I, for one, don’t “believe” this ad—that Apple cares a rat’s ass about us or about developing the “best tool” for us. 
It’s been coincidental that we’ve been able to use the tool as it has been.  And thank God for that!
Yes, we’ve been able to do great things with it at times.  But Apple hasn’t been there by our side, looking to improve our usage of it. In fact, Apple has pushed us away as hard as possible!  That’s why it’s embrassing to listen to that ad and its implied pitch.

Does Apple care that I have a full featured “tool” on my desk?
I paid almost $3000 for a new iMac.  Then bought TurboTax on CD and don’t even have a player to read it. I had to dig up an old external reader just to load necessary software.
They just designed a new (very overdue) high-end Mac Pro that isn’t even rack-mountable or open-able and customizable by, say, a scientist.
I’ve got scroll bars on long windows and one of the former alternative ways (my choice) of being able to scroll those windows (via scroll arrows) has been deleted altogether to the detriment of my personal physical ergonomics at times.

This hammer has always been “two steps forward, one backward.” 
So Apple is not a proponent of excellent tools in my mind.  It keeps crippling its tools and hampering their functionality. Apple’s values are measured by a different words than “to be the best tool for us.”

We keep making good use of the tool, but in spite of Apple’s lack of coordination with us. (So go do good things with your iPad, but don’t expect Apple to care if it quashes some feature that you rely on.)
I think this statement is more true, than that ad.

Too harsh?

wab95

PSMacintosh:

Too harsh?

A tad, perhaps.

No one can dismiss another’s perceptions or recounted experiences as invalid, after all, they are what that person perceives. The things to which you object are indeed objectionable. That they reflect my experience and observations with Apple, however, are another matter, and indeed draw a marked contrast.

Regarding your question, for example, of how often have Apple surveyed me, I can truthfully answer, many times. Moreover, I have initiated feedback on a number of products, and received not merely acknowledgement, but can point to instances in which those recommendations were incorporated in the next iteration, and in one case, when the recommendation could not be incorporated, a detailed explanation as to why it could not be.

This being the 21st Century, however, Apple survey any and every one using modern devices, unless you’ve opted out. These provide anonymised feedback to Apple as to how you use the device, and when there are problems, the opportunity to send that feedback to Apple. Don’t discount, either, the feedback that Apple garner through their retail stores at the Genius Bar about problems, suggestions and requests. In short, Apple now have feedback on their user base from multiple information streams, and need not attend any specific gathering of users, which might or might not, provide widely generalisable and representative feedback.

That said, your perceptions are yours, as are the conclusions you’ve drawn from them. I would only suggest that it is important contextual feedback to observe that, not only are sales of Apple products high, but the surveys of customer satisfaction with not only the products, but the service from Apple as a company, as well. This suggests that there is a substantial fraction, indeed the majority, of Apple’s surveyed user base that feels a positive, if not a positively responsive, relationship with Apple.

Still, diversity of opinion is the sign of a healthy discourse and community. I for one appreciate your perspectives, even if they differ from mine, and benefit from them, because they differ from mine.

skipaq

@wab95

Your points are well taken just are the others who responded. Again, there is much about this ad and others of its’ kind that I like. While Apple isn’t the only company that makes an appeal to our better motives; it sure has led the way with a consistent message. I also enjoyed agreeing with the premise of the article. Apple’s approach to advertising is preferable to others who appeal to baser motives.

Like others, I would like my life to have some lasting meaning. In some ways using Apple products has helped accomplishing my goals. But to be honest, in others it has been a hindrance. Do I use the various tools to write that verse? Is the verse worthwhile? Just as important is the matter of my using the tool rather than it controlling me. These issues have moral relevance.

I was once in an emergency waiting room as part of my work. A woman that we had been working with was injured in an auto accident. On our left some of her family were seated. On our right sat some of the family of the man, also injured severely, who had caused the wreck. There was no embracing, hand holding or comforting conversation. Each had there own smartphone and were busy texting, posting or calling. In some cases they were using their electronic devices to communicate with someone sitting in that same room.

This phenomenon is seen almost everywhere. It is de-humanizing when we let our tools take over our lives. I don’t see technology making us better when it so often is allowed to enslave rather than serve. This is not Apple’s, Google’s or some companies doing. But it would be nice to see an ad where the tool is put away so that the people are seen coming together unhindered by technology.

MuppetGate

@PSMacintosh

So before buying Turbotax, you didn’t notice there was no slot on your iMac to put it in?

Bizarre.

MuppetGate

Oh , and Apple sent me an email survey about six weeks ago

dswoodley

I’ve had 4 Apple surveys in the last two years.  I’ve requested the return or addition of several features (that others have too) for iLife and iWork.  Almost all of them happened. 

IF anyone bought software for a mac on CD and then were surprised that there was no CD slot I have no idea what to tell you…

PSMacintosh

wab95,

Well said!
Nice to hear that you, at least, had some surveys from Apple and some voice into Apple.

PSMacintosh

MuppetGate and dswoodley,

I know it looks like I’m stupid, but…........of course I “knew” that my new iMac did not have a CD player!
I just hadn’t yet personally experienced the irritating inconvenience of that deficiency.

The product that I wanted (TurboTax at Costco’s sale price) was packaged as a boxed CD. So that’s how I had to buy it. (And Intuit will probably sell it that way again next year.)

In the store, I just figured that there would be a way, some way, to get the sw onto the iMac. Afterall, I’m not a newby on Macs:  I’ll be able to figure it out.  (Good luck to the newbies!)

And what was in the box this year? Would Intuit have foreseen this issue with the newest Macs not reading CDs?  (Yeah, right. Like Intuit gives any deep thought to Mac users.) 
Would there be info in the box on how to download the sw directly from Intuit to the iMac?  No, just a CD.
Besides, would I have been happy with how long an Internet download would take? Not really!

I’m an expert in installing TurboTax, so I allotted 30 minutes to the installation task, including installing federal, one state, purchasing and installing a second state, and then running all the updates.

That’s when I came face-to-face with the reality of how my big, powerful, expensive, new machine couldn’t even do a simple, two-second task that I had been doing for years—sticking in a CD and loading sw.  Wow! Now I’ve got to spend how much time just to get to the Installer on the iMac?

At first, I thought of sticking the CD in another Mac and sending the program over the network to the iMac. 
But, since I was having some permissions problems from a previous migration by Migration Assistant, I thought that method might run into some time-consuming complications. Besides, it takes time to run over the network.

I had better options (that other users might not have). 
I had older CD players sitting around somewhere in the garage.  So I could hook up an ugly external CD Player to the iMac (as long as I could find one that was USB).
I’d have to dig around for awhile to find it. Oh, then find another electric outlet unit. Then climb under the desk to hook it up.
It took 20 minutes—done a day later—just to hook up the CD player!
Do you sense the INCONVENIENCE!

So Apple removed this basic storage/transfer functionality that had existed for years (and will continue for years more)........and why? 

How is this “Apple caring about our needs and designing the best tool for us” to use to get our work done—to write our verse?

wab95

PSMacintosh:

One sympathises.

I’m surprised that Apple’s external super drive was not an option for you.

I, too, have been a longtime TurboTax user (having to pay US income taxes since my employer is a US university), and even before that when it was MacIntax. However, a few years back I opted for the auto-renewal downloadeable version, precisely because I knew that optical media, or at least optical drives on the Mac, were going away. More to the point, I travel so frequently that trying to ship a CD to me is a formidable task with an uncertain outcome. Downloads have served me well, despite my being in countries where downloads run at speeds 10-fold slower than those in most Western settings.

There is also an online web version, which I have not opted to use, however that too is based on my travel, and my frequently being out of internet hailing range.

I don’t know how recently you’ve investigated these, but if you haven’t recently, these options might be worth your exploration.

PSMacintosh

wab95,

I, too, have been using since the former MacInTax.

Yes, thank you, I do know about those other options. (I don’t want the online version. And I find the sw cheaper outside of Intuit’s own “renewal program”.)

There MUST be a work-around for those people who, for one reason or another, don’t have a CD reader.  (It may not be as easy as popping in a CD, but I can’t believe that Apple really wants anyone to become stranded from access to sw like this.)
I don’t know this for sure, but couldn’t a Purchaser, who has purchased a boxed CD, phone Intuit, give them a bar code number off the box (or something to prove their purchase), and then download the sw directly from Intuit to iMac?

At least in Intuit’s case, they are a large enough company to already have an established download delivery system in place.  (And it works well and fairly quickly. I’ve used it.)
However, a newer, smaller company might be hard-pressed to build an entire download operation, instead of just delivering it’s product on CD.  Then they might have to use Apple’s App Store (which might be part of the reasoning behind dropping the internal SuperDrive in the first place) and give Apple a larger share of their profits.

wab95

PSMacintosh

I don’t know this for sure, but couldn’t a Purchaser, who has purchased a boxed CD, phone Intuit, give them a bar code number off the box (or something to prove their purchase), and then download the sw directly from Intuit to iMac?

That’s a good question, to which I don’t know the answer. My sense is that Intuit, by consistently offering the download and online versions of their software, would prefer their clients to use those over the physical media. After all, it should provide a cost-savings to them as well, having already invested in the capital costs for the servers, etc.

What I observe is that, particularly as one who has a rather complicated tax situation (living in multiple countries, but with a residence and employer in the US), TurboTax’s automatic renewal, download and electronic submissions, backed by online and phone access to genuine tax attorneys (and yes, I’ve had to use them), has become a well-oiled virtual machine. So I’m of the impression that this is their preferred model, as well.

As for the super drive, I hadn’t used a CD or DVD in years until about a year ago when I added the Insanity workouts to my exercise regime, and had to use the physical media. I now have, and use when I’m abroad, the USB Super Drive for these workouts on my MBP. I’ve even used it when I’m in situations where I have limited internet access, or countries where I cannot easily access iTunes or Netflix, to play movies on DVD. I’m sure this works well the iMac. I plan to purchase an iMac for my daughter when I return home later this spring, and I know she wants the drive for her old movies.

Anyway, good luck with your options. Cheers.

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