Instead, they gave viewers of CBS's "60 Minutes" an overview of the devices' functionality in three spots: "Never Been an iPod," "How To," and "Calamari." Most importantly, they let the world know that the iPhone will be available to AT&T customers on June 29.
The exact date of the iPhone's availability has been a question since the device was unveiled at Macworld at the beginning of the year. Eager consumers have been banking on a promise of a June delivery, which Apple and AT&T are making by the skin of their teeth.
The June 29 date is the last shot in all three spots, displayed under the Apple logo. The previous screen in all three shots displays the AT&T logo and the tagline "Only on the new at&t," above fine print that says: "Use requires minimum new 2-year activation plan." The spots are posted on Apple's Web site at apple.com/iphone/ads.
The spots' lack of sizzle--after all, they were debuted during "60 Minutes," one of the least sexy shows on television and a far cry from the high-profile debut of the "Hello" spot that ran during the Academy Awards telecast in February--is disappointing, but not necessarily relevant at this point in the product's stage, explains telecom industry analyst Jeff Kagan.
"I'm surprised that the ads weren't more. They leave a little bit to be desired," Kagan tells Marketing Daily. But with analysts predicting sales of between $5 million and $10 million, in many ways, this product already has sold itself.
"I don't think any advertising will make or break this phone. The early sales have already been made--early adopters are just waiting for the phones to come out so they can swipe their credit cards and buy them," Kagan says.
What the ads do well is show a mass audience for the first time what the iPhone can do, displaying its entertainment, Internet, e-mail and telephone capabilities in a straightforward manner.
In the "Calamari" spot, a hankering for seafood inspired by a viewing on the iPhone of "Pirates of the Caribbean" is indulged by using the iPhone to search for the closest seafood restaurant to the user's location--Pacific Catch in San Francisco. Pacific Catch is a real restaurant, and their phones have been ringing off the hook since the commercial aired, president and co-founder Aaron Noveshen tells Marketing Daily.
"We've been getting a lot of calls from people who saw our number on TV, and who want to see if we're real," says Noveshen. "We're going to have to change our phone system."
Pacific Catch was contacted by TBWAChiatDay during the ads' production. "They wanted it to be real, they wanted to use a real restaurant," Noveshen says. "That was part of the brand imagery that they were shooting for."
"The spots do a good job of whetting the appetite for the iPhone," Kagan says. "They show a decent amount of using the device, the innovative screen and many new features. What they can't show yet is how easy it is to use, how good the quality is and if there will be any problems with the first-generation iPhones."
Looking ahead, Kagan cautions that while Apple and TBWAChiatDay may have made beautiful music together in advertising the iPod, the cell phone market is a totally different playing field.
"The cell phone market is extremely sophisticated, and Apple has never had to advertise in it. They're moving into a very competitive space," Kagan says.
Also, as reviews of the iPhone's functionality come in, the cool factor of the device that lured early adopters may not pan out long-term, and may not be enough to drive the mass market to the iPhone or to become AT&T customers.
"In a year from now, early sales won't buoy the iPhone. They'll be competing with traditional wireless companies and phones, and the quality of wireless ads today is excellent and massive," Kagan says.