Apple Tugs at Heartstrings in New iPhone Ads

Apple wants to make you cry.

The tech giant just released four new ads that use emotionally charged exchanges to highlight the iPhone 4's front-facing camera and the associated Facetime application, which together make two-way video chats possible on the device. Bloggers have found the ads particularly striking and they differ, albeit slightly, from some of the earlier iPhone spots.

In one of the ads for the original iPhone from 2007, a narrator practically walks the user through how they might use an iPhone, as a disembodied hand uses the phone first to play "Pirates of the Caribbean" and then to search for a nearby seafood place. The ad, at the end of the post, is prototypical of many of the subsequent spots for the device: a voiceover is combined with an audience demonstration, as in a magic trick.

In the four new ads, there is no narrator. Each begins with an over-the-shoulder shot from a different man's point of view. One introduces his baby daughter to her grandfather, another reassures his girlfriend over her new haircut, a man gets his adolescent daughter to smile and show off her new braces, and another finds out his wife is pregnant. By the end of three of the commercials, the shoulder is cropped entirely out of the image, as though the viewer were a part of the conversation. The intent is obvious: the phone is no longer being demonstrated for you, it's being demonstrated by you.

Over the weekend, TechCrunch's MG Siegler offered an analysis of another recent Apple ad, which highlights the same feature, comparing it to a poignant scene from the first season finale of Mad Men. The scene features a pitch from one of the series' stars to handle the account for Kodak's new picture projector. There's an opportunity to create a "sentimental bond with the product," he says. That's Apple's goal, too, Siegler argues:

As we're all well aware, video chat, even on phones, is nothing new. Sure, Apple has simplified it, but they're not really showcasing that here. Instead they're going right for the heart strings. They're doing something rather incredible. They're conveying how you'll feel if you use the product, by making you feel alongside those in the commercial. They're creating this sentimental bond.

In Apple's early ads, the iPhone itself was the object of desire. Now it's the bond it creates.

Here's that 2007 ad, followed by the four new ones.

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Niraj Chokshi is a former staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he wrote about technology. He is currently freelancing and can be reached through his personal website, NirajC.com. More

Niraj previously reported on the business of the nation's largest law firms for The Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper. He has also been published in The Hartford Courant, The Seattle Times and The Age, in Melbourne, Australia. He's also a longtime programmer and sometimes website designer.

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