This past weekend saw the debut of Apple's latest TV ad, "Your Verse Anthem," a kind of creative use-case montage set to a Robin Williams voiceover from Dead Poets Society. Specifically, it's his measured delivery of an abridged version of Walt Whitman's "O Me! O Life!":
Now, it's common knowledge that Apple is among the most secretive bastions of tech innovation in all the land. But if we assume that their ad campaigns are a prism for their corporate culture, their latest effort is a telling exercise in PR (I can't help but wonder if the late Steve Jobs would have signed off on it). At best, it's an optimistic paean to the end user; at worst, it's at once contrived and overwrought, a departure from their most memorable ad campaigns. But the fact that it's an appropriation of an appropriation is nothing new, so to speak; between their marketing gurus' well-documented habit of 'creative repurposing' and the broader 'Everything is a remix' hypothesis, it's simply a safe bet on broad inspiration, a kind of updated version of those kitschy cliché posters.
But in fairness to Apple, I don't think it's a stretch to say that Ive & Co. think of the iPad Air as their verse. Considering the catholic breadth of the 'case studies' in the 90-second spot (which did not go unnoticed by Ohio State), the device is a weirdly literal contemporary version of the tabula rasa, the glass interface as much a lens as a blank slate. Just as Robin Williams' well-regarded turn as John Keating illustrates the sentiment of the monologue, so too is the iPad a veritably poetic work of design.
The irony, of course, is the fact that the iPad Air could not possibly have been created on a tablet—nor could Mrs. Doubtfire's acting chops. Here, for good measure, is another Walt—a.k.a. Bryan Cranston—introducing the iPad Air.
Even so, they may never top some of the classics. Here's the 'unreleased' version of "Think Different," c. 1997, with the never-aired Steve Jobs voiceover.