Apple, the quintessential post-modern brand, is doing it again. Look, I know it’s not cool to love the iPod now that everybody has one. But they really are marvelous, and so is the advertising. I’m sitting here in my office looking out the window at a lush forest of iPod outdoor ads, once again showing the proto-consumer as nothing more than a silhouette with the only recognizable item the distinctive white box and headphone cord. Marketing nerds everywhere nod in approval because the product is king. Hah… fooled you. The user is king! In fact, the user is the advertising. These billboards are doing nothing more or less than directing our attention to the people around us who already have an iPod. It’s they who actually do the selling. Genius.
Twenty one years ago, Apple introduced not so much a product as a manifesto: Computers should serve people, not the other way around. A radical thought, more relevant today than then. Now, I look at the teeming masses of free thinking humans, all clutching identical little tabula rasa-white icons, broadcasting custom media experiences to their audiences of one, and I wonder who is serving whom. Or if maybe this is the first time a brand has succeeded in having itself and its consumers serve each other. It’s such a drag that the Village Voice already burned the phrase, ‘the new Maoism’ to describe the Gap a decade or so back; it would have been a very clever thing for me to say right about here.