Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Remembrance of Things Past: What is the new iPad ad suggesting about Apple's intended audience for the new device?

What is the new iPad ad suggesting about Apple's intended audience for the new device?

First of all, despite the edgy-guitar pop hooks that give the soundtrack to this ad that iPod flavor, the visuals are completely... well... milquetoast. We're in a house decorated by Pottery Barn with a couple of indeterminable age who favor bluejeans and skiing.

The couple are 'readers'... you know, they read 'books' and 'newspapers'; no Boing Boing or Daily Dish in this house, kids. Chatroulette is right out.

Second, they love the travel. They read the 'Escape' section of the Times and have friends who send them pics of trips to Switzerland. We might assume that these folks have made it through the Great Recession alright and are looking for an opportunity to drop some buckage on a hotel with a hot tub and a view.

When it comes to scheduling events, it looks like they have plenty of free time on Wednesdays; perhaps they'll sneak in a few hours to read the Ted Kennedy bio. On second thought, maybe Wednesdays are best spent looking at pictures of the kids and the dog. (Note, ironically, that the interior in this commercial is obviously not the interior of any domicile containing multiple children and a dog.)

Next shot: look! They write emails that look exactly like 'real' letters!

And then, just when I thought I had the market for this device pegged as upper middle class Boomers: they go and throw in that snowboarding article. How edgy! Why, we must actually be looking into the secret life of a Gen Xer with typical 1960's fetishes -- Kennedy, The Doors -- and definitely not folks who'd prefer receiving a letter on 'paper'.

Or are we?

One of the things that's most striking about this ad is the way it blurs together stereotypical Boomer and Gen X interests and tendencies into a composite whole. Notably absent from the video are any of the ways people will actually most often use this device (3rd party apps, 3rd party apps, 3rd party apps) [and I should add 'making stuff', though as of now, there appears to be no simple way ala the typical Macbook avenues to 'make stuff']; instead we're presented with Apple-lite for folks interested in the technology thing, but who have real lives planning ski trips and giving harbor to nostalgia dressed up as hipness.

I'm struck by the images of media that I caught the first time I watched the ad: Star Trek, Steven King, Jim Morrison. There is nothing remotely 21st century about this. The device might be as "magical" as all get-out; but the ad campaign -- and we can assume the intended market's world view -- is entirely based in nostalgia -- and I'd argue -- a certain big-company-fed cynicism towards new media and what's actually happening NOW on the Web.


  1. I'm not really impressed by the iPad. It has potential, but it is missing too much to make it a productive tool. A real keyboard is necessary for really creating content. It doesn't support Flash - this is a must in science education as most of the online demos and labs are created in Flash. And, it's more expensive than a netbook.

    And, I agree that the ads have been wishy washy. But, it's an Apple product, so it will probably sell well, even to people who have no use for it.

    Here's more on my take on the iPad: http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2010/01/apple-ipad-is-it-game-changer.html

  2. I think I said this last time around, this is being marketed as a passive consumption tool for rich travelers, and it will function as another transition device (like the Kindle) for those not really ready to engage in the world's new interactive communications culture.

    Thus we target boomers and conservative Gen Xers. Those most likely to be flying first class across the Atlantic, iPads allowing them to be simultaneously cool-looking and unchallenged.

    The notion of the handheld "laptop replacement" holds fantastic promise, but the iPad is not that. That device will be pocketable, with rollout screen capability. It will have front and back cameras. It will be creation oriented. It will run on a platform at least as open as Windows. It will easily link to any other computing system.

    Whether Apple has the vision to move beyond being a "consumer electronics company" and create something like that remains an open question.

  3. @narrator

    Over the years, they've really positioned themselves as a 'lifestyle' company. And while the MacPro totally fits my lifestyle, the lifestyle presented by the iPad ad has absolutely nothing to do with my reality.

    Alas, I'm not their target audience. But this is the first ad I can recall in a long time where Apple presents 'context'/'environment' behind the product (I don't recall that with iPhone or even iMac ads... maybe I'm wrong). But I think it's a mistake in marketing and that alot of folks will be turned off by the 'context'/'environment' they've chosen to present their "magical" product in.

    That said, this could pose a wonderful opportunity and initiative for hackers to break into this thing and make it useful.


  4. As I type this on a MacbookPro which does such a great job of streaming Netflix while letting me work, I agree, that fits my lifestyle - even as I'm uncomfortable with the resulting "image." But, whether I'm too sensitive or not, the iPhone pitches have seemed "too lifestyly" for me - and that campaign has hardened me as a "BlackBerry guy."

    But all that said, the next generation, camera included iPad should be infinitely hackable. And, since Apple has become the "Big Brother" of their 1984 ad, that's exciting.

  5. Wow A Faire Alchemist that is a great observation about the commercial. I have a post on my blog about how I think the iPad is actually a bluff from Jobs & Co. I think this commercial's target audience is people who think Apple is the coolest company and will buy anything shiny they make.

    btw my blog post is here if you are interested.


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