Apple’s iPhone 6 “health” ad (Apple) portrays the device as something more than a tool for communication and entertainment: it can also be used to monitor and compare users’ everyday health and lifestyle choices. The thirty-second segment features the latest iterations in the iPhone series of devices: the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus – the “plus” indicating the larger screen of the latter. The viewer sees only the two phones and the hand holding each, with occasional zooms into specific features of the health app. Over this imagery, two young, male voices talk about what physical activities they engaged in and what they ate that day, showing how these things are recorded in the app. The conversation has a light, bantering tone, which is backed up by upbeat, “quirky” jazz piano music. Based on these elements, we can assume that the ad is targeting young, male, tech-savvy, health-conscious, hip, trend-setters. It concludes with the slogan “Bigger is bigger,” a redundant statement that will take some unpacking to fully interpret the ad. The following will attempt to deconstruct some of these elements,
The ad says little about the device itself, assuming the it is so recognizable and ubiquitous that the viewer will know what it is and its primary functions. In this sense, the target audience is also existing users of the iPhone and the message is that they should upgrade to the latest hardware. The fact that the two men speaking in the ad are comparing their day through the new health app indicates that those without this version of the phone may be left out of such discussions. In the tech industry, companies must be constantly pushing their users to upgrade their devices and sell or discard the old ones, otherwise they cannot generate the revenue they need to maintain competitive in an evolving industry (The Story of Stuff Project). What is left out, however, is the implications of this culture of “keeping up with the Jones’s”: these devices end up in landfills and other waste deposits and are often filled with components that emit or degrade into toxic compounds (Carroll; Gordon). The irony in the subtext of this ad is that, while this new health app may assist individual users maintain a better diet and exercise regime, moving to a new phone means that other populations and the planet as a whole will likely be suffering. This is what The Story of Stuff Project calls “designed for the dump” technology, a practice that puts us in an endless loop of consumerism and environmental destruction.
What also remains unsaid is that, in this and other similar ads, Apple is trying to compete with the proliferation of other health apps and gadgets that have appeared in recent years (Panzarino). They are promoting how much their app can do and, implicitly, how they can do these things better than the others can. In this way, the ad is targeting not only existing iPhone users, but those that may use these other apps and devices, such as Android-based phones and tablets. Apple’s approach is subtle though, as it does not seem that the men in the ad are trying to sell us anything, or even convince us how the app helped them in any specific way. One even brags about eating a high-calorie dessert, which his friend points out is not a good thing, providing the final punch line in the ad – “It was good. It was delicious.” Thus, some of the persuasion techniques used here are association (with hip, young, white, tech-savvy and health-conscious men), bandwagon (playing on the Apple “fanboy”” factor), humor, plain folks (these two are just “regular guys”), and newness (playing on the “technolust” in American culture) (Media Literacy Project).
The “Bigger than bigger” slogan is also likely designed to downplay the competition’s large-screen smartphones. Apple’s phones have remained a relatively standard size for many years, while other manufacturers, such as Samsung, have gone with larger and larger screens, tapping the Asian market where less users have home computers and rely on their phones for internet access and digital entertainment (Quinn). The slogan is also a more transparent claim that Apple’s new, bigger phones are better than the older, smaller ones. At the same time, however, by playing on the more common “bigger is better” phrase – which most accept as false – Apple is also saying that, in some cases (such as that of their competition), bigger is neither better nor worse, it is simply bigger. This way, they have their cake and eat it too, so to speak.
In all cases, the message is the same: “you should upgrade to the newest version of our product.” In this brief and apparently simple ad, then, Apple has addressed several distinct audiences and given us a number of reasons to want their new phone: to stay healthy, remain up-to-date, have a better user experience, and to interact with our peers – who are, presumably, also iPhone users. The persuasion is subtle in this video, as it appears, on the surface, to simply be introducing a new app available on the new phones. Digging deeper into the subtext, however, reveals additional meanings and reveals implications that the author, Apple, would rather not have the viewer know or think about. Apple has enormous power in the smartphone market, holding a substantial market share and maintaining a large body of dedicated users/fans. Inevitably, their message is going to come across stronger and clearer and to more people than the message of recyclers in Ghana (Carroll), environmentalists concerned about poisonous materials leaking from Apple’s products (Gordon), or factory workers on the other side of the world who protest having to slave under unhealthy conditions to build Apple and other tech company’s products (Moore).
- Apple. “Apple – iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – TV Ad – Health.” Online video clip. YouTube, 9 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
- Carroll, Chris. “High-Tech Trash: Will your discarded TV end up in a ditch in Ghana?” National Geographic, Jan. 2008. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
- Gordon, Pierce. “Op-Ed: Electronic Exploitation: The Hidden Cost of the Electronics Boom.” Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative, 19 Nov. 2013. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
- Media Literacy Project. Introduction to Media Literacy. Albuquerque, NM: Media Literacy Project, 2014.
- Moore, Malcolm. “‘Mass Suicide’ Protest at Apple Manufacturer Foxconn factory. The Telegraph, 11 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
- Panzarino, Matthew. “Apple’s New iPhone Ad Stars A Bunch Of Health Gadgets That Are Not An iWatch.” TechCrunch, 4 June 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
- Quinn, Michelle. “’Bigger Than Bigger’: Apple Embraces Expanded IPhones.” Siliconbeat. The Mercury News, 9 Sept. 2014, Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
- The Story of Stuff Project. “The Story of Electronics.” Online video clip. YouTube, 3 Nov. 2010. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
- Wittbrodt, Amee. “Deconstruct Media Messages.” Sophia Learning. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.