If there’s one way I can summarize why Apple’s pre-holiday “Misunderstood” ad got such a huge reaction, it’s probably that.
It connects with the audience at a level that most advertising companies can’t seem to nail, even those who have been in the industry for decades.
The narrative plot for the ad itself is pretty simple, albeit featuring a situation that we see all too commonly these days. A teenager — the main protagonist in this story — is with an iPhone 5S for the first half of the ad, constantly checking and fiddling with it even as he greets his relatives, occasionally looking annoyed whenever his attention is taken away from his iPhone. Whenever the family would have some bonding time together, the teenager would put his iPhone down for a couple of seconds, do whatever he needs to do to look like he was enjoying his relatives’ presence before going back to his iPhone. At one point in the ad, his grandfather even threw a hat at him to grab his attention, since he was always so preoccupied with his iPhone. Then the scene changes.
The family gathers around in the living room and the boy walks in, turns on an Apple TV connected to a large central television, clicked a button on the TV remote and started streaming a video straight from his iPhone. And then, just like every classic magic trick, the huge revelation comes at the end: the boy was so occupied with his iPhone because he was making a home video for his family. The video showed everything the family was doing while he was holding his iPhone throughout the first half of the ad, and now, instead of looking like an outsider who hated his family members, he looks like someone who is quietly innovative… kind of like Apple, if you will.
There were scenes when the iPhone was used as a hidden camera which showed his grandfather charging towards him for a hug, other relatives playing with the snow and making snowballs, close-ups of other family members smiling, laughing, doing silly stuff and just enjoying the family time in general.
That’s where the humanness in this ad comes through. The ad didn’t have to be this way, and in fact, most of the ads produced by other companies aren’t this way. This ad could have been about how great the iPhone 5S’ new 8MP camera is, how great Apple’s iMovie software for iOS is or how easy it is to connect your iPhone to an Apple TV via Airplay.
But it wasn’t.
Instead, it shows something that we humans can relate to: using the best technology not to disrupt our lives, but to let us have an even better time together with the ones with love. And as this ad will convince many, that “best technology” is Apple’s new iPhone 5S.
Now contrast this ad with the many that companies like Samsung, HTC, and others are used to releasing: a cold, blue hue as the background with an almost robotic voice simply reading off the specs of the device being showed — in most cases, without any context given (for example, this Samsung phone has a 1.7 GHz quad-core chip but… so what?)
So what if it has 20 cores?
What difference does it make?
Most companies don’t think that’s important enough to answer in an ad), and often times the only visuals we get to see from an ad released by any conventional company (like the ones I listed above) are press release images or video footage. There’s no humanness in it — maybe you’ll get a finger or two touching the screen, if you’re lucky.
Those type of ads are undoubtedly way cheaper to produce than the “Misunderstood” ad Apple released.
But at the end of the day, I think one would agree that the response — even if that means zero sales conversion (which I doubt because Apple is, well, Apple) — generated by the Apple holiday ad over a generic one would make the extra costs worth it since it contributes substantially to the public image of the company.
So, back to the original question: why did the “Misunderstood” ad get such a huge reaction?
Because it’s personal. Because it’s relatable. Because it’s different from what we’re used to.
But most importantly, it’s because it is human.
P.S.: For what it’s worth, the entire ad was shot on an iPhone 5S.