I found out the other day that Apple has won the 2014 Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial. (In related news, apparently there’s an Emmy Award for best commercial. Who knew?!)
Produced by ad agency TBWA\Media Arts Lab, the winning ad is called Misunderstood, and it’s about a boy who’s constantly on his iPhone during his family’s holiday celebration. In case you haven’t seen it, I’ll hold off on spoilers while you take a minute and watch it.
I think there are two common reactions to that ad. One reaction is how unfortunate it is that the kid missed out in participating in the family’s moments of joy because he was only experiencing it through the iPhone’s camera lens. Even though he was preserving the family’s memories, he personally still missed out on the very immediate real-life experiences he documented.
The other reaction is obviously more what Apple was intending: Technology brings people together. As Ken Segall, former creative director at the TBWA\Chiat\Day agency says in an interview:
There are tens of millions of people who will stop in their tracks at this commercial and wipe a tear from their eye. As a result, they will feel slightly more attached to Apple, which is the marketing purpose of this spot. Far from depressing, this ad is wonderfully optimistic. In the most human terms, it says that the right technology can bring people closer together. It’s a perfect thought for the holidays.
Obviously, there’s also a not especially subtle message here about how good the camera and video editing software in Apple’s iPhones is. In fact, all the footage in the video supposedly created by the kid in the ad was filmed using an iPhone 5s.
Beyond those marketing messages, I also see a message here about not judging (“misunderstanding”) what people are doing with their electronic gadgets. As much as I love technology and Apple devices, I quickly get frustrated when people use their phones in inappropriate situations, such as while playing board games or during meals. Or, of course, while driving.
I have mixed feelings about people using phones (and I’m including tablets and other devices in this) during worship. I’ve written before about reasons to have open WiFi available in church, and I want to be open to people using devices in church. I haven’t yet been in a setting where I think it would work, but in theory, I think I love ideas like live-tweeting the sermon.
Last spring, I was in church standing and listening to the Gospel reading, and there was a young girl, probably about 10 years old in the row in front of me, and she had an iPad out and was obviously engaged in it.
I saw her absorbed on the iPad, and I thought, “Really? Good grief, she can’t even be without electronics long enough to get through the readings? How sad, and how disrespectful!” And then I looked closer at what she was doing, and she had a Bible app open (probably the Bible app, which passed 150 million downloads today!) and she was reading the lesson along with the pastor.
Wow. As I’m standing there mentally berating her for not paying attention to the reading, she’s the one engaging with God’s Word, and I’m ignoring whatever the reading was. Matthew 7:3 indeed! I’m judging, and she’s reading.
Although I didn’t say anything to her, and I’m still not really comfortable pulling out my iPhone during worship, that moment was a wakeup call to me. Technology is really just a tool. If it’s distracting, that’s not the tech’s fault. Using a smartphone can be an opportunity to completely remove yourself from a family gathering like in this commercial for Facebook Home (seriously, this is a depressing commercial!), or to engage differently in what’s going on around you as in the Apple commercial.
Yes, maybe someone in church on their phone is wasting time on Facebook or BuzzFeed. Or, maybe they’re much more engaged than those of us wondering about what they’re doing. Shouldn’t we give them the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming?
If you want to see the entire “Harris Family Holiday” video from the ad, you can go here to watch it.