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The Video iPod


By Brendan I. Koerner

The Pitch Abandoning its iconic dancing silhouette in favor of a more utilitarian approach, Apple touts the video iPod with a stark-yet-powerful print campaign. Six of the players are lined up in a row, their screens ablaze with track info, family photos, the title screen from Lost, and rocker-cum-humanitarian Bono. The plain-Jane text at the bottom explains that (duh) the video iPod is for watching video, and that prices start at $299. And there endeth the lesson.

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Reminds Us Of Any number of fancy European car ads, in which the mere image of a Jaguar set against a black backdrop is deemed sufficient to excite the senses and pry open the pocketbooks. The copy also has a vaguely pharmaceutical air about it, too, as if the Feds were primed to pounce should Apple make any hyperbolic claims.

The Spin Apple's ad agency, TBWA Chiat Day, can afford to go the understatement route at this point; those little white boxes are so well-known at this point, it's not like they really need to explain what they're for. (Eat your hearts out, Rio and Archos.) But they also need to convince iPod customers to fork over another $300-plus for the video privilege, and a lot of those customers are probably used to equating mobile video with poor quality. So the ads really focus on presenting the crispness of the screen's colors, along with the variety of content available right now, as opposed to a year or two down the line. I mean, who wouldn't want to see the full-color cover of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while listening to the audiobook?

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Counterspin There's a practical reason for the straightforward approach, sure, but perhaps TBWA Chiat Day has finally wised up to the fact that its Day-Glo iPod ads are wearing thin? The writing's on the wall, especially after that Eminem iTunes spot that has invited a cease-and-desist letter from Lugz, which claims that the commercial rips off its own ad featuring Funkmaster Flex.

Takeaway Let's give Apple and TBWA Chiat Day some credit for heeding Thoreau's timeless wisdom: "Simplify, simplify." The iPod Video ads are low-cal, but think of them as lean-and-mean rather than unnecessarily skimpy. The white-on-black two-page spread works well with the colored screens, and I'm all for the absence of small print—I kept looking for a "Simulated Images" warning, but it ain't there. There's also some nice visual structuring: the progression from least impressive (audio track info) to most impressive (a backlit Bono) goes from left-to-right, so you end up with a (very) short mental journey from shrugging your shoulders to "Wow." Except, I guess, if you come from a country that adheres to right-to-left writing. Is the order flipped for Israeli magazines? Hmmmmm...

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Hype-O-Meter 8 (out of 10); not one for the Hall of Fame, but crisp, nuanced, and easy on the eyes.

Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for both The New York Times and Slate. His Hype Sheet column appears every other Wednesday on Gizmodo.

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