Apple’s new ad for the Apple Watch, like its other recent ads about its camera prowess, focuses on one of the important things it can do - which is to call 911 in the case of an emergency. This is Apple’s way of putting it out there that its $400 smartwatch (starting at Rs 41,900 in India) could be the thing that keeps you alive during an emergency. As The Verge points out, that feeling has been “brilliantly, gruesomely captured” in its latest TV ad.
Titled “911”, Apple’s one-minute ad shows you nothing but the camera rolling over landscapes - a sea, a highway surrounded with patches of water, a farm. No gory details. You don’t really get to see the people calling for help. You hear them.
The ad narrates the conversations of three people with 911 operators. The calls are all made from the Apple Watch while one of them has been swept out to sea by a strong wind while paddleboarding, another who is trapped in a sinking car, and another who has fallen a long height and has broken his leg.
Apple says - “With the help of their watch, Jason, Jim, and Amanda were rescued in minutes.” So, there is a happy ending, for all of them, which is great. But the overall message is considerably more ominous. If they did not have the Apple Watch, they might not have made it alive and would have died alone.
The company is known for making ads that stick, but this one sticks in a different, very uneasy way. Especially since it is not too hard to think of yourself in situations where you might be injured, bleeding out, drowning, or drifting away towards certain death all alone (clearly, we aren’t very happy people inside). And that is exactly the sentiment Apple’s watch ad captures with the dialogues.
Now here’s the other thing, Apple is not exactly wrong. There are people whose lives have been saved by the Apple Watch’s fall detection, irregular heartbeat flagging, and its emergency 911 call support. This wearable can and has saved lives but if that idea is stretched to the point to make people believe that this is the only smartwatch that can save your life, it does not go down easy.
Apple does take its health and emergency features very seriously and over the years it has added on other features like a walking steadiness indicator to alert people, which is great. But there are other smartwatches that also support emergency calls, and on those grounds, this ad feels a little disconcerting.
And that’s exactly what Apple perhaps wants you to feel - you need an Apple Watch to stay alive, because it can save you in a dire situation. Not the iPhone that definitely more people own, one that can also make that emergency call, but an additional expensive gadget that you must remember to put on every day.
Now, in all the situations that Apple illustrates through dialogues in the advert, it is highly possible that anyone would dial 911 from the watch in the absence of the phone, or in a situation where they cannot access their phone physically. But what if they have not worn the watch that day or the battery is out?
It’s a great ad, Apple, and it makes me uncomfortable enough to remind myself to wear my Apple Watch all the time. And it just might scare enough Apple users to buy one if they don’t have one already.
For that, full marks. But did you really need to sell fear?
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