Apple draws mixed responses with its latest ads

Apple has long recognised the charm of cleverly honing in on individual product benefits in its ads, but two new sets of spots – with starkly varied tones – has generated a varied reaction from the public

Apple has released two sets of ads in recent weeks that both continue the tech brand’s established habit of artfully showing off what its products can do. This simple premise has led to long-running, hugely successful ads including the Shot on iPhone campaign, which demonstrates how great the smartphone’s camera is for taking photos and making films.

The more innocuous set of ads released by the brand lately is in this vein. Created for the iPhone 13 Pro, it sees the brand wittily send up a series of cinematic tropes, including the detective drama, the film noir and the black-and-white arthouse misery film, while also demonstrating how these effects can be achieved with the phone’s camera modes.

These ads are classic Apple: beautifully shot, cleverly conceived and suggestive that anyone can be a world-class filmmaker if only they buy an iPhone 13 Pro. Another new spot from the brand, this time for the Apple Watch, takes a different tone, however.

Drawing on real calls made to 911, the spot features voice recordings of people in extreme situations who reach rescue specifically by using their Apple Watch. The spot was then followed up by another film released on Twitter, which told how a mountain biker who was knocked unconscious was saved when his Apple Watch detected his fall and automatically dialled 911 with his location.

The product benefits here are stark and simple: the Apple Watch can save lives. This is a whole other level to taking a successful zoom shot on your phone, but in fact proved a bridge too far for some viewers, who have complained of the brand using negative scaremongering to sell an expensive product, unaffordable to many.

It’s uncommon for Apple to put a foot wrong in its advertising, with the brand usually erring on the side of caution and gentle humour in its ads – a previous Watch ad for example demonstrated its location functionality by showing how it was able to locate an iPhone in a haystack, rather than a dying man.

Such compelling real-life content can be hard for a brand to resist using though – and maybe in less fraught and upsetting times (and for a product with a cheaper price ticket) it would have been more palpable for the public. For now, perhaps we need more cinematic escapism, please.