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iPad’s first TV ad puts all other tablet ads to shame



Yeah, I know that headline isn’t saying a lot. Last TV commercial I saw for a tablet was for Lenovo’s ThinkPad X41T and it never even showed the thing in action. Hence, when I saw Apple’s iPad commercial last night during the Academy Awards, I felt at once both excited and mournful.

The excitement comes with seeing a well-executed tablet commercial during a widely watched program. Until last night, pretty much the only tablets people saw on TV were used to investigate crime scenes or determine the course of enemy fighters at sub-light speeds. As usual, Apple dazzled us by flashing through the various things a person can do on the iPad. The key phrase there being “things a person can do” as opposed to what the iPad can do. It seems a small differentiation, but it’s what makes their advertising so effective.

At the same time, I felt a twinge as my first thought was, “no wonder people don’t know tablets already exist.” While I admonish mass media types who display no knowledge of tablets as they report on the iPad, I grudgingly admit that not enough was done to generate tablet awareness outside the niche market. Most people just don’t know and those that do weren’t shown anything worth remembering. Well, with one slick commercial, Apple solved that problem.

So was the ad effective? I think so. Didn’t affect my opinion, but I think many people (again, folks who don’t know tablets) would get starry-eyed to the point of wanting to try it at their local Apple Store. Whether that hooks them into buying one is a separate story, but actually being in stores to handle is one big advantage the iPad has over just about every other tablet. Going to be very hard for other tablets to take advantage of the iPad hype until they get in store displays. And then there was my wife who, while surrounded by Tablet PCs, asked, “When are we going to get one?”

So what do you think? iPad ad: big winner at the Oscars or another victim of The Hurt Locker? Great for tablets in general, only for the iPad, or none of the above? By all means, let loose in the comments. Copy of commercial below from Engadget in case you missed it.



  1. griz8791

    03/08/2010 at 9:55 am

    +1 for sadness. I was blown away by how effective it was but it didn’t make me want one. The thought of Apple suddenly vaulting into the mass consciousness as playing any kind of leading role in this type of computing is almost enough to make me choke. Sure, Microsoft did a terrible job of marketing the Tablet PC, but at least they didn’t completely spurn their own technology like Apple did when it killed the Newton. In a just universe, the tech press would be absolutely rubbing Jobs’s face in his responsibility for killing the Newton.

  2. BurningOrange

    03/08/2010 at 11:25 am

    i was in a cafe working with my dell xt2 in slate mode (handwriting, zoom pinch multitouch and all) and someone came up to me and asked: “is that the ipad ?”


  3. Steve S

    03/08/2010 at 12:22 pm

    Make that +2. Once again, Apple shows us how creative and engaging marketing can powerfully shape a customer base and create demand. And they also have to be complimented on building on the iPhone and iTouch experience base (regardless of how you feel about iPad’s computing power).

    Why can’t Microsoft take these lessons to heart…?!??

  4. smh

    03/08/2010 at 12:41 pm

    Am i the only one that found the ad to be ridiculous?

    Many of the things in the video looks pre-rendered, so i don’t know what to think. And the ad was a bit too fast-paced to give any significant insight on what the product was capable of.

    • Bob

      03/08/2010 at 12:47 pm

      I felt i was too fast paced too….Fortunately, I had Tivo recording the Oscars, so I was able to run the ad in slow motion.

      Some of it might have been pre-rendered…but damn it looked really good when you could stop and analyze each screen.

    • Kim Schulz

      03/09/2010 at 10:52 am

      I agree…the add looked pre-rendered and fake (even in slow-motion). Also, did you notice that everyone is sitting down when using the ipad…..yep it doesnt really seem usable when standing up and only having one hand free for screen typing/navigation.

      • smh

        03/09/2010 at 12:22 pm

        They don’t want to tell that the product sucks. Exactly why i think they also didn’t include clips where the keyboard was used.

  5. Sam

    03/08/2010 at 12:48 pm

    Most tech companies do such a poor job of marketing and advertising, Apple’s marketing people get it (or at least are able to higher companies which do…)

    Seeing that ad reminded me of those mid-90s AT&T “You Will” ads. They were a nice idea, but it would have been so much better if they could do interesting “You Can” ads, which is pretty much what Apple just did.

  6. Michael

    03/08/2010 at 3:02 pm

    To the question at hand, I would say the add is a winner for Apple, but not for Microsoft PC Tablets. Mainly because the iPad is NOT a PC Tablet. The Microsoft PC Tablet is a general purpose computer with tablet and touch functionality hacked in as an after thought. I know there are those out there that will brag about all that you can do with the MS PC Tablet. To be honest over the past 10 years they have finally gotten it to the point where it can do some things, but they are still two different beasts. Many people, no doubt a lot of people here, will not be initially interested in an iPad (or anything like it) because of all that it can not do. These people need, or at least want, a full computer. Again that is not what the iPad is, so it is no wonder it is not appealing to them.

    On the other hand to the masses of people who only want to surf the net, do email and a few other light tasks the iPad is GREAT. And that is what the add was all about. For the millions of non-techies out there the iPad (or one of the similar devices soon to come out) will be all the computer they will ever need.

    • smh

      03/08/2010 at 3:33 pm

      Again we get into the Mac vs. PC argument.
      To make things clear: Mac is a PC, as PC was the abbreviation used by IBM decades ago to differentiate between computers that were so big that you needed a warehouse and those available on the consumer market – as the name suggests “PERSONAL Computer”.

      Which leads us to the Tablet vs ipad: the Tablet PC( you call it MS Tablet PC) is and will always be what came first, ergo it is the benchmark – not the other way around!

      You can not define ipad as a tablet unless you use the same frame of reference that was defined by MS (and partially Intel and IBM) – ipad is and will always be a touch enabled MIDI device with a proprietary OS, unless apple implements some of the features found in Tablet PC’s.

      • Michael

        03/09/2010 at 3:14 pm

        “not the other way around!” I will have to disagree and I believe history and your example are on my side. The “benchmark” is not what came first but what was first to succeed. Going with your example of the IBM PC, you are correct the IBM PC set the standard, it was the “benchmark” for many years. But it was NOT first. There were other “Personal Computer” before it. There was the Radio Shack TRS-80, a variety of CPM machines and other. Some of the even used the term “Personal Computer” but none of them were a real success. As you pointed out when people think of the beginning of the PC they think of the IBM PC. Another example. PARC invented the GUI. Apple came along and made a GUI based PC called Lisa, that almost no one remember. What do people thing of when you ask who made the first GUI, Apple Macintosh. So you see. It isn’t who is first who sets the standard the “benchmark”, it is who is first to make a successful product.

        Back to the tablet, the MS PC Tablet has never been a success. I use to work at MS during the one of their big pushes for the Tablet PC. I saw LOTS of tablets, but I never saw any one using it in any way other then as a traditional notebook. Microsoft had the right idea, and I admit they had it first, but their implementation was so bad that it never succeeded.

        On your second point “You can not define ipad as a tablet…”, I agree with you on that. In fact that was the focus of my previous post. As I said before “they are still two different beasts”. I believe the author of the original article referred to the iPad as a tablet. A LOT of people are referring to it as a tablet. Only time will tell what generic name sticks. A few years from now people may no more think of a MS PC Tablet as a “tablet” then people now think of a TRS-80 as a PC. Then again it wouldn’t surprise me if iPad type devices end up taking on a totally different name.

        • smh

          03/09/2010 at 5:01 pm

          IBM were the first to ever use the PC abbreviation, of that i have no doubt.

          And i strongly disagree about the success of the Tablet PC – yes it is not a device found in every home, or used by every consumer, but it is used widely in various disciplines and professions.

          And the classification of ipad i very simple: it is a touch enabled MIDI – there you have it. Not meant to be cross, but the hardware and software specs. are what define it as a MIDI. Or if you want UMPC can also be used.

          So basically apple has done nothing but inventing a new brand and trying to sell off products that do not differentiate from products already available.

          • Michael

            03/09/2010 at 8:18 pm

            “IBM were the first…” I believe I recall the term being used before 1981, but I was fairly young then, so maybe my memory is wrong. But my point was that they were NOT the first to produce personal computer. They were the first to succeed at it.

            I agree that the MS Tablet PC is widely used ins some professions. I have a friend who is a developer for EMT software. From what he tells me they like MS Tablet PC (the expensive harden type). But that is not what Gates was originally (or ever that I recall) saying about the Tablet PC. He was expecting it to be a big success in general not just in a few small markets. So compared to what they were expecting, the MS Tablet PC failed.

            I agree with you that the iPad could be classified as a MIDI. It could also be classified in many other ways too. What you or I call it, how we classify it, doesn’t matter. What the common person, and the media, call it is what is going to define the label for this new type of device. I have heard people refer to the iPad, and similar devices, as tablest (most common name), slates, MIDI and other terms. As I said only time will tell which term lasts.

            “inventing a new brand” They already had the iPhone and the iPod, it seems to me that they were/are working on an established brand. Then again I am not a marketing guy, so maybe I am wrong about that.

            “sell off products that do not differentiate from products already available” I have been watching this market pretty close for quite a few months, but maybe I have missed something. So please tell me where are all of the MIDI (as you call them) that have very similar specs. to the iPad. I would really like to see them.

  7. Absolutely NoOne

    03/08/2010 at 8:20 pm

    Actually, anybody who has had the intelligence to look up the iPad isn’t going to care about the ads; either they’ll realize just how terribly useless it is, or they’ll buy one. So, I don’t actually give a darn about the commercial.
    I like how they showed the same apps over and over, though, and didn’t show actually using the keyboard.

  8. Anthony

    03/09/2010 at 6:42 am

    There are a majority of people who will be influenced by advertisements. As with the release of many new products there is hype surrounding it, and with this advertisement it will influence many of the early-adopters to re-enforce their desire to purchase it. Apple hasn’t been able to translate the success of the iPod into success for their computers. This ad should be able to convince people that Apple has released a computer (tablet computer) at the correct price point and please investors.

    I remember someone telling me that it isn’t the platform but the applications.

    It is interesting that someone actually missed seeing the keyboard in action. This suggests that Apple’s advertisement company didn’t do a good enough job.

  9. Catalin

    03/09/2010 at 8:27 am

    HP Slate may be an alternative to the iPad. Flash support and Windows 7 compatible are two strong arguments to choose it but I am looking forward to test them before bringing more argues. Here is the HD version of the iPad ad:

    Professional Streaming Consultant

  10. smh

    03/10/2010 at 5:03 am

    Moved it down here to avoid a complex post :P

    Back to the MIDI, you don’t have to look further than Nokia internet tablets to see what i mean – and they also have the big advantage of having a physical keyboard.

    “they were/are working on an established brand”, is it correct to assume that you agree to the ipad being a upscaling(enlargement) of ipod touch? If so, then yes you are correct that this is an already established brand.

    • Michael

      03/10/2010 at 3:30 pm

      It seems we mean two different thing by the term “brand”. When I say that Apple is using an establish brand (iPhone, iPod etc.) I am not saying that all of the products with in that brand are the same thing. For example General Motors has several “brands”. With in the Chevy brand they make many different products. No one would say that a Chevy pickup is a “enlargement” of a Corvette, but everyone would agree they are both from the same brand.

      But now we are in the realm of opinion. You, as many other, seem to think of the iPad as an upscaled iPod. Just like some think of the chevy Silverado as an upscaled Colorado. I certainly can not say that you are wrong, we are all entitle to our opinion. My opinion is that the iPad is MUCH more then an upscaled iPod. I believe it is more like comparing a pickup truck with a dump truck. There are things you can do with the dump truck that would never be practical with a pickup.

      Hear again we will have to wait and see what the test of time says. If in the next few months or years we see people doing things with an iPad that they never did with a iPod I will be proven correct. On the other hand if after a few years there is nothing you can do with an iPad that you can not do with an iPod they you will be correct. At least that is the way I see it.

      There is no questions, at least for me, that the iPad falls under the MID category of devices. Again I think size is going to be a big dividing point with in the MIDs. If you said the the Nokia Internet Tablet is just a big Nokia smart phone I would agree with you. It is only fractionally bigger (screen size) then the bigger smart phones. On the other hand the iPad is several TIMES bigger then the biggest smart phone, at lest of the ones I have seen.

      Again we are going to have to wait and see how the market plays out. I think we are going to see the smaller MIDs disappear as they are replaced by the iPad size ones. Maybe it all boils down to ‘Is the size big enough to allow you to do new things with out being so big it is hard to carry around with you?’.

  11. tim

    03/11/2010 at 4:24 am

    lots of browsing gets tiring really quick without a stand and it’s cumbersome to use touch in a larger screen- that’s why the iPad is not a netbook killer

  12. DDHR

    03/11/2010 at 3:22 pm

    Interesting discussion! IMHO, the iPad is positioned not as a tablet PC competitor, but as a cross between the Kindle DX, a netbook and an iPod Touch. The form factor of the iPad is close to that of the Kindle DX (but with glorious color and no physical keyboard). The screen is large enough to have serviceable, netbook-size onscreen keyboard. Unlike the Kindle DX physical keyboard, the iPad keyboard orientation seems to be rotatable, so it’s usable portrait or landscape. The ad copy for the iPad features iPhone/Pad-like utility: graphics, video/audio, touch, social media, and in- and outside-browser apps. If it does Skype, you can phone. Not an “iTab[let]”.

    The original athlete-slinging-the-hammer is oldskool and Steve J is probably still not too well…so simply showing what you can do was probably the best approach.

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