Creative: Critique - Mac Is Back

Apple Returns With A Vengeance
Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day
Creative Directors: Lee Clow, Ken Segall
Art Director: Susan Alinsangan
Copywriter: Neal Hughlett
Producer: Michelle Burke
Director: Mark Coppos
Modern, simple, streamlined and clean, these iMac spots offer a blank set against which our modern, streamlined, suavish spokesperson Jeff Goldblum emotes. As an Apple endorser, he’s a natural. Like the brand, he’s a hip, intense, solitary type. But wait, he’s not on the Net.
Surprisingly, Goldblum is here to allay our fears about missing out on those new digital communities, where everybody is already involved except you. And these days, when even Granny is electronically messaging her nearest and dearest, it’s a brave stance to acknowledge one’s on-line virginity, especially for a sophisto like him.
“It seems like a big party is going on these days,” he says, poor electronically bereft pooper. Then he comes right out with it: “I don’t have an e-mail.” (I assume the word “address” is omitted on purpose, to make him seem more conversational, less threatening to those in similar pre-techno boats.)
Goldblum also delivers the lines with a slight stammer, as if he’s thinking them up on the set, as he looks into some middle distance. He delivers a good line reading: compelling, casual and natural.
But coming out of Goldblum’s mouth, it strains credulity a bit, given that he’s best known for playing the cybergenius who saves the planet with his Apple Powerbook in Independence Day (talk about genius product placement) and the brainiac chaos theorist/mathematician who does likewise in Jurassic Park. (He was also a total gross-out bug in The Fly, but there again, is a subconscious link: The two great design innovations at the end of the 20th century, both turbo-charged and economically priced, are the iMac and the new Volkswagen beetle.)
Now he’s saving the world from alien, or at least boringly designed, appliances and the embarrassment of not having e-mail. (In the late ’90s, that replaces the ’60s advertising-created anxiety of ring-around-the-collar or a house that smells like fish.
In other spots, he talks about the new ring around the color, the sea-foamish masterpiece that is the iMac. And we agree with him: It is unbelievable that most of the boxes out there are beige (or “putty” as I’ve heard it called). Beige is “boring bland, nuts, like they’ve been in thinking jail,” Goldblum says. And I might add, on the subject of color, that he is not wearing black, the urban hipster sartorial equivalent of beige, which is something his characters tend to wear faithfully. He’s wearing what looks like a grayish-greenish shirt, and we all know that gray is the new black.
But inveighing against the stupid blunt monotony of beige is understating the case. I might as well come right out with it: I’m just crazy about that iMac design (oh glowing, emerald-blue, plastic jewel box of a thing, be mine!) It’s like a great translucent alien life form that’s all superconductor brain, yet cozy as a kooky hair dryer or egg chair of the late ’50s. The see-through resin suggests light, shimmering water, the Emerald City–and my all-time favorite, Dippity Do. Use it as a broach, a cocktail ring, an earring, an end table, that machine is just so darn polymorphous.
I’m not being perverse on purpose. It’s designed to arouse emotions, to connect in a way that’s not machinelike or cold. IMac’s British designer, Jonathan Ive, previously worked at a London firm called Tangerine, where he designed high-volume consumer products such as televisions and microwaves.
To get the color and translucency level in every product, he found a partner who worked in the candy industry, he told an interviewer from Apple. Surely, this computer is I-candy in every sense.
The computer, the design and the advertising are inseparable. And it’s the first piece to fulfill the company’s sense of mission since the introduction of the Macintosh. The attitude of the company, and the devotion of your average Macnut, seemed so poignant and pretentious when it was foundering. Last week, returnee Steve Jobs announced a fourth-quarter profit of
$106 million and overwhelming sales of the iMac, now the fastest-selling Macintosh ever. And almost 30 percent of the sales have been to first-time computer buyers.
So here’s to the crazy ones.
Ironies interloop like circuits throughout the whole story of the near-destruction and recent resurrection of Apple. You’ll recall that when the Macintosh was introduced in that groundbreaking Super Bowl commercial from Chiat Day, the announcer told us that “1984 would not be like 1984.”
Too bad it’s now like 1928, and we’re on the eve of another economic and social destruction. But that’s another story. In the 1984 commercial, the evil enemy was Big Brother, or Big Blue or IBM. Now, of course, it’s Bill Gates, and he’s an investor.
Now that the company is back, and Jobs has proved once again that he is a genius, the most interesting thing to me about these spots is how vulnerable Jeff Goldblum seems. He stands there alone, going on about the color beige, admitting he doesn’t have “an e-mail.”
It’s a powerful and cool paradox, as well as an interesting embodiment of a new corporate identity. E-mail provides a screen, a mask, a false front with which to communicate, but it also brings back the hallway/street-corner serendipity that friendship used to be based on–when mail was delivered four times a day. It fulfills a modern desire for urgency–but it also provides a way of avoiding contact.
Goldblum embodies the paradoxes. And now that he’s mastered the e-mail thing, I’d like to ask what he can do for the Asian flu and various other bugs in the system.