Apple vs. Sony

Apple and Sony have both released major commercials this week. The two films have many similarities: they are both ultimately centred on product, yet also come with a hefty side order of idealism. So who wins in this battle of the tech behemoths?

Apple and Sony have both released major commercials this week. The two films have many similarities: they are both ultimately centred on product, yet also come with a hefty side order of idealism. So who wins in this battle of the tech behemoths?

Let’s start with the Apple ad. The spot centres on the iPad Air, and shows the tablet in use in a number of spectacular scenerios. Apple has proved the master of the product demo over the last few years, transforming this rather fusty medium to show off a series of remarkable new devices. Previously, the piece of tech at the centre of the ads was enough to get us excited, but we know how an iPad works now, so consequently this spot dials up the drama considerably.

The ad does make the iPad seem awfully impressive – apparently as useful in a rescue helicopter or in the eye of a storm as it is to send an ordinary email. And if this wasn’t enough, Robin Williams pops up in the voiceover, intoning a version of his stirring speech from Dead Poets Society. Williams’ voice is more gravelly than in the movie, and the setting of the speech in an ad seems more overtly manipulative of our emotions, but it’s still affecting. It’s a powerful contender.

Now over to Sony. As with Apple, Sony is keen to show us its wares. Instead of focusing on just one product though, this ad gives us many. We whip from older products, such as the much-loved Walkman (which of course has now been eclipsed by Apple’s iPod, but let’s not dwell on that here) onto computers, cameras, TVs, underwater headphones, and much more. Again like Apple, the scenerios shown here are privileged: we visit Spike Lee on set, for example, using his Sony camera to shoot a movie. What unites all these products, we are told, is Sony’s unique combination of engineering and artistry.

The Sony spot is accompanied with a series of shorter films that focus on recent product releases. You can see one on the underwater walkman here, and another on the personal 3D movie viewer here. Put it all together, and it’s impossible not to come away with a sense of how broad Sony’s reach is.

Yet, there is a certain functionality to the Sony piece, and it is here where the two spots diverge. By bringing all of the products together in a ‘hey, what a great company this is’ kind of way, Sony runs the risk of making us feel like we’re at an internal company sales conference. (Perhaps the ad is aimed as much at employees and ‘stakeholders’ as it is at consumers.) Apple doesn’t attempt to tell us about all the things it does – the iPad Air alone is enough. And while Sony demands that we ‘Be Moved’, Apple relies on the power of its brand and the brilliance of its products to do that implicitly. Surely, if you feel the need to tell people how they should feel at the end of your ad, something has gone wrong?

The spot may be too in keeping with Apple’s established style to bring any non-believers into the fold, and the poetry speech and its delivery may make many squirm, but in this ad battle with Sony, it comes out top.

Sony credits:
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Creative directors: Mike Giepert, Chris Mitton
Creatives: Mike Giepert, Chris Mitton, Matt Moore
Director: Stacy Wall
Production company: Imperial Woodpecker

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