The Pitch Our cooler-than-thou cousins over at Gawker recently pronounced Canadian songstress Feist yesterday's news, but the folks at TBWA/Chiat/Day apparently didn't get the message. Their latest Apple ad, for the new vid-enhanced iPod nano, features Feist in all her sparkly, hip-hugging glory, tweeting out her super-catchy "1234." And, really, there ain't a lot more to it, save for a disembodied hand that enters the screen to reveal the case colours (and, presumably, to provide the viewers with some sense of scale). Why, it's almost like Apple is so sure of mammoth sales that it isn't even trying any more—imagine that! Will the House That Jobs Built ever regret putting its ad campaigns on cruise control? Or is there something to that age-old adage of "Stick with the one that brung ya"—especially when you've figured out a way to fatten your margins even more?Rip-Off Of Um, every other iPod ad that's ever been produced in the history of mankind? No narration, an earworm of a song that's been bubbling beneath the Top 40 and clever highlighting of features—in this case, the nano's video capabilities. Other than that, I can only say that Feist's outfit is reminiscent of something from the roller-rink scene in Switchblade Sisters.
The Spin Apple obviously feels that the mobile-video era is finally upon us, after several false (or at least lukewarm) starts. The NBC mess aside, iTunes is doing well with its TV show downloads. And those technonauts over in South Korea—the gadget world's coal-mine canaries—are ga-ga over M-video. At the same time, consumers have become less and less willing to lug around the full-sized iPods of yore; as the somewhat surprising success of the clip-on iPod shuffles has proven, ultra-portability is more of a priority than Apple may have initially realized.
Counterspin There's a certain Teflon quality to Apple's iPod lineup—no matter how many technical glitches the products have, demand never seems to subside. That's in large part because the iTunes store has such a lockdown on the pay-per-unit music market right now—71 percent is the last figure I saw, though I wouldn't be surprised if it's actually a bit higher. So there just isn't that much incentive for Apple to get things right, nor to crack the whip on its ad agency to take risks. As Gizmodo overlord Brian Lam noted in his lengthy review of the nano, the screen is dreadful with wide-format vids, and there have been copious reports of weak battery life, third-party compatibility issues and crooked screens. And yet Apple can't produce these things fast enough.
Takeaway We here at Gizmodo are often accused of excessive Apple fanboydom. (In fact, I'll bet the comments section will be stuffed with several such allegations, from people who merely saw the "Apple" tag without actually reading the column.) But the laziness of this ad is sort of irritating, if only because I've become disenchanted with the iPod lineup. My last nano suffered a massive, fatal disk failure right out of the box, and the replacement has lots of irritating quirks—a sticky click wheel, ruts in which it skips from song to song without prompting. I know I'm not alone in these complaints, and I'd switch to another player if I could find a similarly sized competitor I like. (I've actually toyed with the idea of going with an off-brand knock-off next time, though the warranty situation skeeves me out.) But for the moment, Apple's got me, grumbles and all. And with millions more like me in its pocket, why should the company bother with better ads—or, for that matter, with fixing little performance issues when it's easier for 'em to just swap out dead players (and make bank off AppleCare).
Hype-O-Meter 4.5 (out of 10). Feist's song is appealing, and the ad competently highlights the player's video capabilities. But this advertising riff is getting pretty stale, as is Apple's lackluster quality control.