“The Original Apple ‘Focus’ Commerical Will Go down as a Television Achievement”

Commercials are 30-second pieces of film. Many times, today, they are in my opinion even more entertaining and well-done than TV shows. Also, ironically, it seems like it’s the insurance industry, theoretically the blandest and most formal sector of society, that tends to foster the best ad campaigns.

Lots of commercials running nowadays are decently funny, like the Progressive ones about people “becoming their parents.” I have my own running joke relating to this travesty that applies to my life, actually — every time I hear the song “Brown-Eyed Girl,” I start explaining to people that it was originally called “Brown-Skinned Girl,” but his record label made him change it. Then, if I successfully avoid telling this story to people, I’ve successfully avoided becoming my parents, which is of course easier said than done, at least according to Progressive.

There’s now an ad running for Apple featuring two men sitting in a car. The point of the ad is that the new iPhones feature a “focus” ability, which allows a video maker to make one man’s face clear, through the focus mechanism, leaving the other one’s blurry. In the discourse of the ad that’s running, the man in “focus” explains that he’s the main character, hence explaining why his face is rendered clearly, leaving the other man blurry, the “supporting cast.” The “focus” then toggles to the other man and we get a little argument about which character is more important. 

Along these lines, there was actually another version of the commercial that I saw, that aired last night. In this prior version, the alleged main character (who happens to be black, making things perhaps eerier depending on your subscription to general cinematic superstition) explains that he’s the primary player, explaining his face being in focus. After explaining this to the “supporting cast,” in the earlier version, the main player gets the response from the other dude, who is white, that “Maybe I’m the killer.” The main character asks “Are you?”, to which the ulterior player answers “Yes.” And the focus zooms in on his handsome face and blank eyes, all portrayed in unsettling stillness and minimalism. 

Following that, we get the playful insertion of the word “no,” to of course deny that he’s “the killer.” By this time, anyway, you’re pretty fu**ing freaked out. Actually, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to see the ad run again — maybe we’ll get it at night some time. It might be the case that some flak ensued from the FCC, or general bureaucracy, and Apple was forced to discontinue it. But it had the appeal of an horror film, the way the Limu Emu ones or whatever carry the traits of a great comedy. In this way, it’s forged a memorable niche within advertising screenwriting, on an historical level. 


[1] The commercial is set up as if within a film but in truth we don’t know what murder is supposed to be referenced here — just a general, universal cinematic motif. 


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