This apple iPad commercial shows scenes of people using an iPad in proactive ways. One person is using their iPad to read music while marching in a marching band. Another person’s tapping their iPad while scuba diving. One person is even using their iPad to create live music. These remarkable scenes are set to the audio of a scene from Dead Poets Society, which most notably mentions, “that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” The intertextual nature of this ad is doubly so, as this passage read by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society comes from a Walt Whitman poem, “O Me! O Life!” The ad asks, at the site of all of these people ‘seizing the day’, “What will your verse be?” The ad seems to use many signifiers of rich scenes in nature (including scenes in a cornfield, near a waterfall and even underwater) to evoke nature’s exploration as a theme upon “seizing the day”. It also uses a live music scene as a signification of participation in culture and scenes with hockey players, sumo wrestlers and a marching band as signifiers of “active” lifestyles – which can be more easily lived through the use of a consumer technology like the iPad.
The iPad seems to be used in a way to commodify “cool” lifestyles that showing that people can use iPads to engage in meaningful cultural activities or to make the most of their lives in active ways that do not seem reliant on consumption or adherence to any sort of capitalist norms. The commercial implies that using an iPad can help someone become a better version of themselves, and an active member of society and a participant in that society’s culture. In this way the ad seems to be utilizing a sort of interpellation – it is delivering a message to its viewer. This message is connected to the way in which the ad is ideological. According to Robert Goldman & Stephen Papson, one of the main ways that advertising carries existing ideology in society is through the disguise and suppression of inequalities that exist within the word. The ad’s message seems to tell its viewer that they, themselves, have just as much of a chance as imprinting their mark on the world as anyone else does. All they must do to make the impression, we are made to believe, is to apply ourselves and “seize the day”. This of course hides many of the reasons that some people achieve success and fulfillment in life while others suffer and are doomed to monotonous lives that are seemingly devoid of hope. Often the privileges afforded to those held up as examples of people who “seized” the day and “contributed a verse” have been granted advantages that not everyone has access to. This sort of ideology that encourages ignorance of class circumstance and implies that everyone can “leave their mark” on the world if they apply themselves has been used frequently to sell consumer products to people who do not need them and are not in an economic position to buy them.
The so-called “creative revolution” of the 1950’s in advertising caused a shift in the way the function of ad-creation was perceived. Early advertising was used to make note of product features in comparison to competitors (a tactic that has been employed by competitors of the iPad, coincidentally enough), but advertising became more about creating smaller forms of “entertainment” for viewers. This often meant that ads would seeming betray their purpose of convincing a viewer to buy their product in order to accomplish the simpler goal of ensuring that the viewer merely paid attention to the ad. From the iPad air ad, I do not know anything about the iPad air’s features, nor about how it compares to its competitors. The product is shown in the ad, unlike Apple’s “1984” ads which didn’t even show MacIntosh computers, but we can still tell that this advertisement is not meant to promote to us product features. By using Walt Whitman, Robin Williams, and the scene from Dead Poets Society that combines those two, the ad captures the viewer’s attention through a use of media self-referentiality and intertextuality, two staples of advertising in the age of the creative revolution. Using these devices, Apple has created an ad that not only captures the viewer’s attention, but also leaves them inspired by the possibilities of life. The iPad’s (admittedly many) practical uses are seen in the ad as part of an active and self-fulfilling lifestyle. The ad asks something of us and we feel that we should answer.