Wednesday, August 11, 2010

iGot my grade on the mid term...

They were everywhere. In the mid-2000's decade, one could not escape Apple's Ipod Silhouette ads. Besides the blackened figures that danced across the television screen, the groovin' Ipod wearin' silhouettes marked their territory inside magazines, on billboards, on the sides of buildings, subway stations and online. Who was the mastermind behind this advertising handiwork? What was the objective and was it achieved? What kinds of variations were made to the promotional campaign?

Television advertising has a huge advantage over other forms of advertising as it involves the viewer's senses of sight, sound and hearing. Television traditionally has the largest audience so it is often chosen when introducing specific products. Apple is no stranger to television advertising that stands out. In 1984, Apple introduced the Mac with a legendary super bowl commercial. Internationally recognized creative agency TBWA/Chiat/Day did not disappoint Apple when they created the silhouette campaign for them.

While various other types of advertising were used in this campaign, television commercials are the most remembered part of the ad campaign. The bouncy beats were combined with the black shadows dancing across the brightly colored backdrop. Each person in the ad has their own background color. The figures wore a white Ipod and those signature Ipod white headphones that further stood out. These ads often caused this author to jump from her exercise ball that she would be using during the commercial breaks in order to dance around the room with the shapes on screen.

This author most remembers the ad with the Black-Eyed Peas song, "Hey Mama," from the original commercial airings. The song was quite popular at the time when the ad campaign debut. The forty-five second advertisement opens on a close up of the silhouette of a black woman's (she has an afro) face as she sings, "la, la, la, la, la." This woman's background color is pink. We see later she is wearing mid-calf pants. Then it flashes to scenes where each of the dancers is shown dancing. The next to be shown is the other woman who has long hair and wears a miniskirt. Her color is green. There is a guy wearing a hat who is given yellow. The guy without a hat dances before purple. He has a really hot dance move where he squats and bounces in a circle at about 0:08. Seeing the skill of the figures dancing could make one think that the iPod would give them such ability. Perhaps, the advertising team was thinking this, too. It's interesting that the silhouettes have shadows. One might expect that the shadows wouldn't have shadows. It seems that they do. Towards the end of the commercial (0:36), the word iPod comes up, white letters, purple backdrop, more dancing, then, "Mac or PC" against a pink backdrop. There is a quick bit of some more dancing, including the young man taking his hat off and putting it back on. Then the commercial closes on the Apple logo with a green background.

Some of the other commercials that can be viewed from include: a thirty-second spot featuring the Jet song, "Are You Gonna Be My Girl," a thirty-second commercial where the silhouettes roller skate, U2's "Vertigo" which the silhouettes pop out of the shadows a little and some facial definition is shown, then there is an ad with the song "Channel Surfing" by Feature Cast-the silhouettes split themselves and dance in sync, although, it is obviously digitally created, it is very cool and finally- the author's favorite (but not remembered from 2003)-the thirty-second spot with the song, "Technologic" by Daft Punk. "Technologic" is different because the background are more pastel colored, like a nice shade of blue, and the silhouettes are not assigned their own color as they are on some of the older ads. This is obvious because there are frames where both a male and female dance.

Magazine advertisements are colorful and enjoy the most longevity of any type of ads. They are also most effective when complex information is to be conveyed (The Core, p.360). They nicely reinforce ads on other media sources. This is very important as magazine readers watch little television (Kleppner's, p. 345). Furthermore, magazine ads enjoy a reputation of being the most artistic which gives them a special distinction. They are also an excellent way to hone in on a specialized audience. Finally, research suggests that magazine readers are more likely to remember that advertising (Kleppner's, p. 348)

The Apple Ipod ads graced the pages inside Entertainment Weekly, MacWorld, Wired, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated (forums.appleinsider, There are three ads pictured on the referenced site, chaosmint. In a MacWorld ad, there was a woman with an Afro and many bracelets against a pink background. It is unclear if this is the same woman from the television commercial who was also shown against a pink background. In an ad from an unidentified magazine, a man with spiky hair is shown against a purple background. Finally, in an ad from Wired magazine, a man in a hat holds up an iPod with a burnt mustard colored background behind him. All of these ads have the Apple logo with the word iPod in white in the upper left corner of the magazine. They indicate, "Welcome to the digital music revolution. 750,000 songs in your pocket. Works with Mac or PC. Over a million sold. The new iPod." along the bottom of the ad. (

Outdoor advertising is an affordable way to advertise a product. Unlike other types of advertising, there are numerous sub-categories from which to choose, most prominently, billboards and transit advertising. Outdoor advertising most notably came on the scene in the states during the 1800's. Posters were put up to advertise the arrival of the circus in town (, Another benchmark in outdoor advertising came in 1926 when signs for Burma Shave sprouted up along roadsides. Several signs in a row progressively gave lines until the message had been transmitted to drivers along the road ( The most interesting outdoor advertising is probably when Snapple had its advertisement pressed into sand on the beach (Armstrong & Kotler).

Apple is no stranger to outdoor advertising. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America ranks Apple as the 15th top outdoor advertiser (Kleppner's, p.387). When it came to the silhouette advertising campaign, they made their presence known on billboards and through transit advertising.

When looking through search results on Flickr, the photographs of iPod outdoor advertisements about. Many are listed after the bibliography. However, there were so many, not all are listed. The photographs online indicates the many cities where this advertising was found. It seems that in San Francisco, Ca, the Apple silhouette was quite the fixture. It seems any corner of the earth, Aside from San Francisco; ads were photographed in Japan, Taiwan, Toronto, Berlin, Los Angeles, Chicago, Manchester, and London, China and throughout the author's current abode, New York City.

A key distinction that one might see with the billboard advertisements over the other types of media is the appeal that the product would make its consumers larger than life. Nothing has been encountered in the author's research for this project to support this idea. It's just a gut feeling. One of the photos that is particularly interesting is a silhouette wallscape in Toronto. The building is painted pink. The female silhouette is holding her iPod in her left hand. Her right hand is outstretched with a bracelet on. There is a paid parking lot next to this silhouette. The ad gets extra exposure to the consumers using the parking lot.

Noticeably, many of the billboards were the same as magazine ads. Granpa'pple-Bejing from the photo sheet has the picture chaosmint's magazine ads. Sometimes they are the same ads but, in different locations (leapin' NYC and Boston or golden girl two different locations in SF-not the same ad moved, either look at the pictures). How about the same location but, different iPod ads? That can be seen with photos from the SF gas station or Chinatown NYC guy and girl in heels (look at the top of the building, that's the same graffiti). Furthermore, the ad Chinatown girl in heels turns up in Chicago.

Photos of these ads have the "get up and dance" feel that TBWA/Chiat day was surely going for with these ads. However, there's something different about the mood when the photo was taken during the day, at night or sunset. You can see how birds, in front of the "girl in heels" ad from Chinatown, change the mood. It makes the ad look gloomy. In general, though, this ad seems to have a feeling of falling, whereas most of the other ads have a feeling of one should get up and dance. It seems like this might be part of the reason why bright colors were chosen for the backdrop.

Transit advertising, on the other hand, lacks that larger than life quality but, it makes up for it by often being within the customer's sightline for an extended period of time, as is true in the case of station advertisements. One of the alternative forms of transit advertising are the ads on the sides of buses, taxis and subway cars, as in the photographs from Japan, Florida or the full bus from Seattle (see transit advertising list for the links). While it seems at first that it would be a disadvantage that the ad is moving, this could easily be an advantage. People are more attracted to look at things that are moving. Plus, the ads are always moving to where new people are.

There's also a lot of transit advertising in subway stations. In particular, there are many online photos taken from the BART, San Francisco's subway system. The ads would be on the walls behind where the subway car comes through. They would be wrapped around poles in the stations and even shown on monitor screens in the station. At the Powell station, there is pictured, two ads. There is a wall mural of an Apple iPod ad behind a monitor with another ad. They both have backdrops of red melting into gray. These are newer ads. A Flickr photographer has been kind enough to post a Berlin subway station with an iPod. This is one of the newer ads, as well. The silhouette is pink and the backdrop is a mixed yellow and green. It seems they don't have lights in their subway stations, though? It's a good thing they have that lighted iPod ad to help ease the darkness.

As previously mentioned, TWBA/Chiat/Day is the artistic genius that put the silhouettes on the map. There are 258 full service agencies out there, of which they are in the top ten of the US-based groups ( They are no stranger to winning advertising awards for their work. They were behind probably the most well-known super bowl commercial ever, "1984." In the early 1990's, they repeatedly tricked this author's older sister with their pseudo-soap commercials featuring a pink bunny across the bottom of the screen (MacWorld). This silhouette campaign just fetched more awards for them. Some of the awards included a 2005 Effie (Anderson & Sampey), a 2004 Kelly Grand Prize (Magazine Publishers) and the Cannes 'Media Lion' Award (MacNN).

One of the ideas behind this campaign involved anonymity of the silhouettes, thereby making it easier for the viewer to see themselves in the advertisement. This would, of course, translate into a purchase of the iPod in order to achieve this. Blog reader "Wingate" sees this, "in a way they're de-individuated by being reduced to faceless and almost featureless moving shadows. However, reduced to unidentifiable shadows, their individuality comes out in their particular pattern of dance and their individual responses to the music.....which is playing on their iPods! Their individuality is also suggested as being expressed by their particular background color (which seems to be clearly referencing the discrete color case options for the iPod)." ( "Wingate" hit it right on the nose. Susan Alinsangan from TWBA/Chiat/Day had actually seen someone in a hoodie on the street and she was inspired by the anonymity. She went with this idea. She further developed the idea with the campaign's photographer, Mathew Welch (Bernstein & Andriulli website).

This campaign started simply with the black silhouettes on the various solid color backgrounds. Many individuals commented to the author that the background colors eventually became the exterior options for the iPod. In order to prevent the campaign from going stale, variety was added. In the later television commercials, more and more depth would be shown to the bodies. The backgrounds evolved from mere solid color backgrounds to textured backgrounds. Finally, the silhouettes weren't black. For example, many of the later ads were pink on green/yellow. While online advertising has been used, only one of a pink and orange backdrop and a blue silhouette seems to have made any sort of permanent mark ( This ad which was the sole evidence uncovered of online advertising seems to have come from this later advertising.

The target market to whom Apple was aiming their advertising is relatively apparent from the above discussions. It seems that the main group targeted would be 18 to 34 year olds, which is the category for which they received their Cannes Lion Award ( The bouncy beats and choice of networks like MTV for their television spots help confirm this. However, if you look deeper, you notice half of the magazines they chose were specialized and drew a specialized audience. Their choice of MacWorld seems to suggest that they expected their devoted Mac fans not to disappoint them. The buzz on the appleinsider forum seems to support such a hypothesis. Also with the choice of Wired magazine, they were obviously figuring those who like to stay up on technology should like to stay up on this technology. It seems they were targeting males slightly more than females when you consider the additional choice of Sports Illustrated. Perhaps, they seem to have left out women's magazines in efforts not to discourage male customers, as men would more likely feel awkward using a product they think is for females whereas, women do not have such a strong penchant to disassociate with items like music players if it is advertised more strongly towards men. Finally, the billboards do not know age boundaries in the same way as a choice of where to advertise on television or magazines may. However, the bright colors of the billboard backdrop are more apt to draw in the youth rather than the elderly.

After reviewing the many details of television, magazine, and outdoor advertising and various examples of iPod's advertising in these mediums, one can only wonder what eye popping advertisements will come from Apple next? Will there be online advertising that will make a mark? Furthermore, as TWBA/Chiat/Day works for many other major corporations, what will they next come up with to turn our heads or make us smile as they did with the Taco Bell Chihuahua ( Most importantly, will the iPod silhouette transform itself into yet something new? What options could be left for this icon that seems to have exhausted all its options?


  1. My professor said, "As I anticipated, excellent analysis, Nicole
    your writing is intriguing to read and I enjoyed doing so
    a :45 is a big media placement investment - that is impressive - generally, only :30s are used
    I missed a number of the ads you outline, but thank you for telling me about them
    very astute descriptions of the colorations of the ads
    insightful observations about billboard media
    thorough discussion of ads (including sound track)
    TWBA/Chiat Day is indeed an awesome agency - very creative
    wow - what else can I write? this is a terrific advertising analysis - I have no criticisms and only compliments - great job!

    grade on midterm: A plus"

  2. very nice. You should be proud of yourself.