Mark Wilson, writing at Fast Company’s Co.Design:

In what should be a warm, humanizing montage, people are constantly directing their attention away from one another and the real, panoramic world to soak in pixels. They’re choosing the experience of their products over the experience of other people several times in quick succession. And Apple has a warm voice in the background, goading us on.

This is a crazy world. Please tell me you see it, too.

He goes on:

My fundamental problem with the ad—why it’s begun to make my shoulders tense and stomach churn every time it comes on TV—is not that it’s lying about how we use technology, but Apple’s consecrating the behavior, and even going on to say that their products, not the lives they serve, are “what matters.”

You can read the whole thing here.

The only thing I disagree with his the title of the blog post. I’m not as optimistic that we’ll look back on this ad and recoil at the message. I fear we won’t even be asking the question.

And it presses home to me a more personal question: I can critique the ad, but are there times I am living in such a way to reinforce its message and ethos?

HT: @TedCockle

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Comments:


19 thoughts on ““In 20 Years, We’re All Going To Realize This Apple Ad Is Nuts””

  1. Josh Hunt says:

    My son is a big Apple fan. I just got a new Dell for $700. He told me a comperable Mac would be $2300

  2. It’s true. I’ll testify that I’m online because the quality of my interpersonal relationships (outside of my family) is better than the real world. I love to go outdoors to hike and jog, but I’m usually there alone. I usually find more pretense at church than I find in online conversations with people I’ve never met. It’s kind of depressing.

  3. Benjamin K says:

    I’m not sure I agree. Watching the ad, the message seems to be that Apple products fit into every aspect of our lives. The people depicted aren’t turning from “the experiences of other people” towards their product. Rather, they are integrating their products into their lives. Playing a slideshow at a family reunion, recording video at a concert, or pictures on vacation. Sharing the experience of sushi with a loved one halfway around the world. None of these things would be possible without technology, and Apple is trying to sell you the idea that their products will seamlessly fit into your already exciting lives, and enhance them. Whats the problem with that?

    Technology is not going away. Its critical that we as christians learn how to integrate it into our daily experience. Instead, we have a tendancy to denigrate it in favor of “real” experiences, when we are missing the point. Its not about real experiences versus digital ones, but about what is the content of those experiences. I’ve experienced real life interactions that are shallow/draw me away from Christ, and online experiences that have brought me to tears glorifying my Lord. Its not the how we receive input that matters, but the content that affects us.

    just me thoughts :)

  4. Greg says:

    I probably agree with 99.9% of everything posted on this blog, but really just don’t see the point Mark Wilson is making here.

    I think it’s a great ad. Apple helps us capture and enjoy our REAL LIFE relationships in a terrific way.

    Let’s not over think things here! :)

  5. Steve says:

    Anybody here ever read “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman? Mr.Wilson piece echo’s the practical outworking of what Mr Postman wrote about over 30 years ago. Mr Wilson…some of us do see it but there aren’t enough of us left to make any difference in some of the attitudes sadly expressed by Benjamin K. How do you stuff Pandora back in the box when a lot of those who direct our local churches incorporate this zietguist into the very fabric of their offerings to the saints without the slightest idea that they’re doing it?

    1. Melody says:

      I read it and I couldn’t help but feel Mr. Postman didn’t understand technology or people at all.

  6. JRJ says:

    I won’t deny the pitfalls of technology, but the blessings are there, too. This blog, for instance.

  7. Dean P says:

    What is frustrating about this is this commercial and this campaign is that it screams “GIANT BIG STEVE JOBS SHAPED HOLE” The reason for this is that Jobs was never about the products themselves but he was about “answering the Why question”. Jobs had a shared belief and ethos. A company that calls people to think unique and differently. Unfortunately you can tell that the suits are running Apple now, because its more about the products and not the beliefs. But don’t take my word for it. This guy explains it way better than I do.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVnN4S52F3k

  8. Melody says:

    I don’t find how the commercials talks about the product particularly convincing, but I also don’t see people turning away from each other in favor of technology. They’re using it to connect, whether it’s to talk to each other when they’re actually apart or whether they’re using the technology together.

  9. Daniel Melvill Jones says:

    Compare it to this recent Apple add, which captures what most of us love about the brand, it’s artistry in making it a joy to share the beauty of the world. http://youtu.be/NoVW62mwSQQ

  10. Martin says:

    The experience one creates from within is what matters, not what is depended upon from a product. What matters is the skill of the human designer(s) of these products. Watching this video, I couldn’t help but think that each of the products featured has merely usurped the place of television in our lives.

    Ironically, I am typing this on a Mac Air.

  11. Hobbes says:

    Can anyone spot the irony here?

    “…people are constantly directing their attention away from one another and the real, panoramic world to soak in pixels.”

    “My fundamental problem with the ad—why it’s begun to make my shoulders tense and stomach churn every time it comes on TV..”

    Surely TV is just as unreal but with more pixels? Why does not his stomach churn when he turns away from the real and switches the TV on? He’s doing what those in the ad are doing.

  12. CPS says:

    Wow. At the risk of sounding a contrarian note, I’m frankly not convinced the author of the original piece has paid careful attention to the ad at all. Here are the images that I’m seeing:

    1. A woman on a bus, listening to music. Is she interacting with the other passengers? No. Since she’s listening to MUSIC, though, she’s not exactly “soaking in pixels.” And frankly, what she’s doing here is little different than the commuter passenger who sticks his nose in a book for the duration of his travels, either.

    2. Children using iPads in a classroom. But it’s more than just that–they’re looking at something on their iPads and then–wait for it!–they’re RESPONDING TO THE TEACHER, raising their hands excitedly. Again: not all that different from ANY classroom scenario I can remember from my own childhood, other than the “textbooks” here are shinier, sleeker, WAY more expensive, and have a great many bells and whistles attached. Further, once again it’s patently untrue that this image of the ad is somehow “consecrating” disconnectedness or the avoidance of social interaction–if anything, it’s quite the opposite.

    3. A father and a daughter playing or reading on an iPad. Did the author of the original post actually LOOK at the little girl’s face? Can it REALLY be said that she’s “choosing the experience of the product” OVER the experience of her father? She’s TALKING to him and INTERACTING with him throughout the entirety of that segment! Can someone explain to me how this would be any different if the father and daughter were looking at a storybook or a picture Bible instead of an iPad? By the original poster’s criteria, wouldn’t the little girl then be guilty of choosing the experience of the product (in this case a book) over the experience of her father as well?

    4. A man and a woman sharing a romantic moment that the woman chooses to capture on her iPhone. By the very nature of the case this CANNOT POSSIBLY be an example of someone “soaking in pixels” INSTEAD of connecting meaningfully with another person–the point of the scene is that she finds her personal connection SO meaningful that she wishes to capture some sense of that for posterity’s sake. (And if she sends the picture to her friends, she’s actually using technology to connect MORE with other human beings.)

    5. A Caucasian man at an Asian restaurant using what I presume is FaceTime to share the moment with a family member (looks like a little boy? his son?). Again: the author of the original post is criticizing this man for failing to connect with the other people around him…but really, is the man somehow obligated to connect with total strangers INSTEAD of sharing his experience with his son? What if he’s been traveling for a long time and hasn’t seen his son in a few weeks? Should we excoriate him for using whatever means he can to interact with his family when he’s not physically present with them?

    5. A rock concert. This image and the one that follows it are the ones I find most damning to the point of the original post–within the context of the scene, the MacBook isn’t taking center stage at all. Literally–it’s off to the side, presumably running some kind of acoustical application while the performer is pretty enthusiastically feeding off the crowd. There are flashes in the crowd as well, suggesting that many of them are using camera phones to capture the moment. Does this mean that ANY of the people in this scene are somehow failing to connect meaningfully or to experience their situation undistractedly? Hardly–this would be what C.S. Lewis might call the consummation of their joy. We can quibble all day long about whether how they choose to do so is appropriate (but seriously: does it really somehow diminish the experience of a ROCK CONCERT to take pictures of it? come on.)

    6. An older couple at what I presume is a family reunion or something of that nature. Once again, the Apple product isn’t AT ALL the point of the scene–it’s hooked up to a projector and no one’s paying attention to the computer at all. They’re laughing at the slides or the photos or the home movies that they’re watching. To say that they’re somehow “awash in pixels” rather than experiencing authentic fellowship is frankly no different from saying that when people reminisce together over an album full of Polaroids they’re avoiding significant interaction with each other. Ridiculous!

    7. A woman in her bedroom on her iPhone (again, I think we’re being asked to imagine that she’s using something like FaceTime). How exactly is this an example of her avoiding meaningful interaction? How is she choosing the experience of her product over the experience of other people? SHE’S *ALONE.* Does she have some sort of ethical obligation to cherish her solitude instead of using her device–once again–to actually CONNECT with another human being? This message actually says the OPPOSITE of everything the author of the original post is attempting to communicate.

    Here’s what bugs me about rants like the one Wilson serves up: it’s a fundamentally horrendous reading of the source material. Can we make the case that people use technology as a way of avoiding meaningful human interaction? Sure. In fact, this very point has been made by cultural pundits of every conceivable intellectual persuasion ad nauseam over the last several years. It’s a hobby horse, and a DEAD one, and I frankly don’t see that anyone’s served by yet another in a series of endless floggings thereof–especially when the flogging comes by way of a sloppy interaction with the source material.

    Look: as Christians, we’re people “of the Book,” yes? And don’t we get wildly (and justifiably) irritated when people outside our culture misrepresent our own source text? Aren’t we up in ire anytime someone excoriates the Bible for saying that a wife has no right to her own body while conveniently ignoring that THE SAME VERSE says that a husband doesn’t have one either? Here’s the deal: we want OTHER PEOPLE to responsibly and accurately interact with what WE have to say…doesn’t basic integrity require us at the very LEAST to do the same, even if it means we can’t use everything we see to make another tiresome Custer-like stand in the culture wars. Frankly, we’re called to love the Lord with our minds a whole lot better than this.

    1. Peter says:

      Just what I was thinking. But you said it far better than I could.

    2. doug says:

      Going to have to completely agree with CPS here. The author of the blog post seems to have a point to make, but the source actually works against him, not for him. Feels like he is swimming upstream.

      21 seconds in, “will it make life better.” this commercial is about portraying a company relentlessly committed to creating products that seek to make life better, by creating innovating ways and innovating creative ways to connect people. Once upon a time you had to write a letter to tell someone about a great meal in a far away place. Then you could call them after the meal, then you could talk to them wirelessly from the meal and now you can show them the meal and celebrate in a new way. This commercial attempts to make apple a product not for technology geeks or addicts, but products for friends, family, romantics, children, everyone.

      if there is a critique to this commercial, it is the elitism of Apple portraying itself as a company of the middle class, through emotionally stirring vignettes of everyday people while actually being a product few in the world can afford. will it make life better? yes it will, but not for everyone.

  13. Ted says:

    I’m not sure we’re understanding the nuance of the article or Justin’s response to it. As a blogger who depends on technology to broadcast information, surely Justin isn’t saying technology is evil?

    Instead, I’ll bet Justin—and the article for that matter—are encouraging a proper use/prioritization of it.

    As CPS pointed out, the devices can be used to aid human interaction with our world. The point, the article seems to make, then, is that the Apple ad fails to point to this truth, and instead points to its product. What’s more valuable the device itself or the interaction it enhances? (Because it certainly can enhance interaction).

    What do you think, is this off base?

    1. CPS says:

      Ted,

      If the issue is simply that Apple is guilty of emphasizing their product which aids human interaction rather than emphasizing human interaction itself, I’m not sure what the problem is–in effect, we end up criticizing the Apple ad for being, well, an advertisement for a product. You might as well say that Burger King is wrong to advertise the Whopper rather than food itself.

      This sort of underscores my problem with the analysis as a whole: it blames the product advertisement for being a product advertisement, as though it somehow has some sort of ethical obligation to be something it isn’t.

      But in any case–and sort of the whole reason I bothered to post at all–is that I don’t think you can credibly use the images presented in the ad to make the argument that Wilson makes: that Apple is privileging the use of its product over human interaction. I think a number of images in the piece actually *DO* suggest that what really matters are the human experiences Apple’s products are meant to serve. Wilson doesn’t read the source material well and ends up making a straw man argument that doesn’t serve anyone well at all.

      1. Ted says:

        CPS,

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

        You make a very good point that the article essentially critiques the ad for being an ad. I suppose my mind didn’t get there, but here’s why.

        I appreciated with the article—whether it handled source material well or not—because it encouraged me to evaluate the way in which I use technology. It challenged me to prioritize human interaction above pixels on a screen or soundwaves in my earbuds.

        All this to say, I resonated with the article because I was feeling otherwise convicted in my own life. This is why I love Justin’s close, “I can critique the ad, but are there times I am living in such a way to reinforce its message and ethos?”

        Hope this gives insight into my train of thought. Thanks for a great interaction!

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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