New Sam Mendes iPhone 4 ad says the future is now, now now!

In the future, we'll all have video phones where you can see your loved ones in real time ... oh, wait. It is the future.

Actually, the future has been with us for some time. You can already see callers on video chats, webinars and while Skype-ing. But there's nothing like a shiny new Apple gadget, backed by a savvy marketing campaign that plays heavily on the heartstrings, to make you feel as if you're crossing the Rubicon into a future that is now.

Thanks to the new "Face Time" ad by movie director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road), Apple effectively gets to "own" this seemingly new communications space the way Kodak, maker of cameras and film, once laid claim to photos-as-depository-of-memories with their Kodak Moment campaigns.

Smart move. Does it work?

It certainly works for me, and I'll tell you how I know this: I just watched the Mendes ad, and I'm ready to upgrade my Dark Ages-compatible iPhone for Version 4.


Hint: It's not because "Face Time" overplays the sentimental card with images of a baby giving Daddy his first smile, a woman showing her military husband the ultrasound of their yet-to-be born infant or a couple cooing at each other in sign language. If you want a taste of real goo, try this Kodak ad from around 1960. (It still works, as shameless as it is.) You'll see that "Face Time" has nothing on this for pure manipulation.

Nostalgia Versus Innovation

Mendes followed the successful Kodak formula to the letter when he made the "Face Time" ad. Instead of Turn Around, there's Louis Armstrong singing When You're Smiling(The Whole World Smiles With You). In the Kodak ad, a little girl grows up so fast it's like we're on time-lapse photography heading non-stop to the grave ... so you really get the feeling that if you don't capture these moments at the appropriate shutter-speed, they'll be lost forever. In the iPhone ad, we see couples who are apart for all those modern reasons-business trips, geographical separation, war-yet parents can still share the joy of their babies being born and learning to walk.

The new ad skirts nostalgia in some ways by making it look practical to have an iPhone. You can check your wardrobe against your BFF's opinion before making a fashion faux-pas. You can save travel time and expense by dropping in on the grandparents by using your bucket of available minutes.

My theory, though, is that the iPhone ad is getting me to upgrade not by playing to my emotions or multi-tasking needs, but to my hunger to stay au courant. As with the iPad, it presents the normal things we do in a new way, as symbols of progress, innovation and relevance.

With the new iPhone, you can let your caller see you and also see what you see-the phone's second camera captures the "behind-the-scenes" view, so to speak. I can't say I desperately need the ability to record what's behind me and in front of me, but it's still exciting to know that we live in cutting-edge times, where the functions of cameras and telephones overlap and merge, just the way books and PDAs do in the iPad.

How we see, hear, communicate-it's all a big, exciting mash-up, isn't it?

I don't need a new phone. I just want in.

The old Kodak ad was about holding onto something before it disappeared: nostalgia. The new iPhone ad is about not missing out just because you can't be in two places at once: innovation (almost implying teleportation).

Normally, technology sounds and feels "cold," but the brilliance of Apple's new ad is that it warms up technology through the Vaseline-smeared lens of nostalgia. You can thank the original Kodak commercials for priming the way.
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