The sad little iPhone commercial

The internet is buzzing with delight about the latest iPhone commercial — “misunderstood”. John Gruber even went so far as to quote from Mad Men:

“Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound’. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a space ship — it’s a time machine.”

Here’s the thing: nostalgia is the pain from an old wound. There’ is no nostalgia about what happened 5 minutes ago. Not to mention that there is no wound in the commercial — the family is still together. Nobody is nostalgic about the holiday that they are still spending together — we’re not wired that way.

Make an effort and try to picture this scene happening in your family — would you really enjoy watching a video that your son made with his iPhone, at the expense of not participating in family activities? Would you really want to see a documentary about what you did yesterday? Would anyone from your family actually cry, overwhelmed by emotion? I doubt it. I can tell you my reaction: I would tell my teenage daughter that she made a serious judgment error, and that living your life is far more important than documenting it.

Ok, ok — it’s an ad, you have to suspend belief (e.g. it’s ok that the teenager filmed vertically, but the shot appears horizontally; I don’t mind that inconsistency). But does it do its job? Does it make me want an iPhone? Do I think that the iPhone will make my life better? Well, no … not really. My reaction to the ad, up to the point when people starting crying, was sympathy for the parents; my thoughts were:

Oh, kids can be so stupid sometimes. You tried to surprise and impress us with a movie? Poor little misinformed soul, it’s ok, you’re young and you can make errors like this… that’s what adolescence is all about. I appreciate your effort, but it’s misdirected and is has made us all sad. If you made this film for you, because you’re interested in film-making — that’s fine, maybe it was worth the sacrifice; but please turn it off now, we’ll watch it later when we’re no longer together — now let’s enjoy each other’s company while we still can, shall we?

And yet, that’s not the reaction I saw in the clip. People were impressed with the gesture, and seemed to finally appreciate the “misunderstood” teenager. Worse still, most of the american public seems to consider it heartwarming and it gets comments like “I love Apple’s commercials lately. It shows how their products are truly enriching peoples lives”. Really, USA? This is how you see people’s lifes being enriched? Do you need technology to communicate, even when you’re right next to each other?

I may be living in a bubble, but that’s not yet how people around me think. And if this is the US culture now, I at least hope that this time, it won’t succeed at exporting it to the world.




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