Clever and funny are out. Short and obvious are in.
Watching Apple’s new collection of Switch Ads, I was instantly nostalgic for the company’s iconic "I’m a Mac and I’m a PC" ads that introduced us to the wit and comic-timing of John Hodgman and lovable knowingness of Justin Long.
In those ads, they were affable counterparts in the computing spectrum. Hodgman personified the buttoned-down nature of the Windows PC industry and user—as well as every issue the pre-Windows 10 PC had—while Long was the cool Mac, impervious to Windows viruses and honestly concerned for the well-being of his beleaguered friend.
The new spots, which appeared on YouTube on Monday, are too short to be called ads and too abstract to engage on any emotional level.
There’s no dialogue, just brief illustrations of the difference between "your phone" and the "iPhone."
In each, the screen is split neatly down the middle. Invariably, a character travels (either by their own volition or through someone else’s) from one side to the iPhone side. If the character is running slowly on the "your phone" side, they speed up on the iPhone. If someone is snooping on the main character on the left, they’re alone and secure on the right; if they’re ploddingly playing piano on the "your phone" side, they’re a concert pianist in the iPhone space.
Each transition is accompanied by a few on-screen words that promise more speed, ease of music transfer or better privacy.
There is a small thread of connection between the memorable theme music from the old "I’m a Mac" commercials, but it’s also all over the map, especially because some of the music is there to help illustrate Apple’s point. In the speed spot, for instance, the music starts off slowed down and distorted and speeds up to normal when the runner reaches the Apple side.
The 15-second spots are good companions for Apple’s Switch destination, which walks you through, in far more detail, all the reasons you should drop Android in Favor of iOS. That site has a lot of good info and leads you, obviously, to the new iPhone purchase process.
With the Switch site being so specific, it seems to me that the accompanying videos could’ve been a little less on-the-nose and a bit more inspired like the old "I’m a Mac" commercials.
To be honest, Apple hasn’t been funny in a long time. They can be playful, but tend more toward serious, albeit beautiful, visual exposition on the stunning capabilities of their iPhone 7. Make sense. If I built something like that, I’d want to shout its capabilities from the rooftops, too. But with a more esoteric topic like the process of switching platforms, one that’s fraught with danger and fears, humor might have been the best approach.
Wouldn’t it have been brilliant to bring back Hodgman and Long for this series? Everyone would’ve watched them (and shared them), just to see the pair back together. They are, after all, like our modern-day Abbot and Costello.
Maybe Apple couldn’t get them and perhaps, rightly I guess, they thought, "Been there, done that."
The generation Apple hopes to attract was probably in grade school when these ads were popular. Maybe they wouldn’t care.
When looked at that way, these tiny spots could be pretty canny. The length and lack of dialogue will work well on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.
The one that might work best for any of those short-form social platforms is the Photos one, which shows a woman and her photos being swiftly moved from one side of the screen to the other.
Funny? No. Clever? Not really.
I mean, I totally get Apple’s point here: You can move your photos from an Android phone to an iPhone with ease. Yup, it’s as clear as the nose on my face and about as interesting.
Where’s Justin Long and John Hodgman when you need them?