Apple's WFH Ad Seems Very Realistic. Is That What's Wrong With It?

Apple has a new seven-minute ad about working from home that’s quickly captured 25 million views and a whole lot of feedback from viewers.

The ad is a sequel to last year’s introduction to “The Underdogs,” about a group of package designers  working to create solutions (as they say in the trade) on the fly.  In last year’s ad, they invented the round pizza box, using every kind of Apple appliance and tool out there.

But last year, they were working in the office.

This year they have the same ice-queen boss, named Vivienne, who calls from the backseat of what might be a limo to tell the troops “the project” is on again.

But this time the same foursome -- a perky “born leader” type, a divorced dad taking care of the kids for a week, a sometimes-snarky redhead, and another guy who lives with his mom -- face  an impossible deadline that is then moved up even more. And this time, of course, they’re working from home. That’s messy -- both the deadline situation and, it seems, their homes, too.



They work, seemingly around the Apple Watch clock, to turn in the project on time and under budget. A metronome-like musical score plays in the background.

“The nervous energy that enveloped the team prior to that original FaceTime call with Vivienne was palpable,” wrote Dan Pontefract, a Forbes contributor. "They all knew something was up, and that Vivienne was about to act with her usual ruthlessness, caring not for a single second about the team’s workload, engagement, or WFH pressures.” In the article headline he calls the ad “appalling.”

In an email exchange, Stuart Elliott, former advertising columnist for The New York Times, said he tried to like the spot, but he just wasn’t that impressed. “It seems like the kind of creative that was trying so hard to be remembered as the epitome of this moment, as if it were designed not for consumer consumption but to be placed in a 2020 time capsule the moment it was released,” he noted. But, “by this point a lot of the imagery and remarks just come across as corona-cliches.”

The ad, “The Whole Working from Home Thing” has gotten many rave reviews online, at least for showing off all the tools that make Apple so handy -- and how, as Apple puts it, “collaboration never misses a beat. . .  Working from home (or working from anywhere) isn’t new, but what you can make happen together is.”

No critics are denying Apple did a good job showcasing its goods -- noticeable in a scene where the hapless dad is instructed to scan a document. "I don't have a scanner!" he complains. "Look on your phone, under Notes," he's told. "Oh, this is really cool!" he says while scanning the paper.

Readers commenting on a story about the video on were reacting to the unfairness of the WFH world. “So why do people continue to put up with it and not hold companies more accountable for that kind of ridiculousness?” one respondent asks.

Inc. says in a sub-headline,  “Apple nails the work from home experience.” It than adds,  “Unfortunately, that's not necessarily a good thing.”

Says a woman whose brief Twitter bio claims she’s done some marketing work for HBO and YoutTube, “i’m sorry i absolutely hate the apple at work from home ad. it gives me anxiety!! that is my life i don’t need you to remind me of it, i need your products to make it easier!!!”

And that’s the thing that angers Allie Walker, associate strategy director for R/GA. Writing on Medium, she notes, “F--- you, [Apple], for exploiting the 'new normal' to sell your products. But more importantly, f--- you for perpetuating the notion that the stress, anxiety, and inability to balance work with life that so many of us are experiencing during quarantine is just… normal.”

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