Does anyone remember when iPhone prototypes were left behind in Silicon Valley bars only to be found by those looking to make a quick buck while providing the techie world with an advance sneak peak at Apple's latest iteration? In both cases, Apple execs were none too pleased and subsequent police investigations and threats of litigation were filed against Gizmodo and ex-Apple employees responsible.
During Steve Jobs lifetime, secrecy was a credo he followed implicitly and one he instilled within the rank and file of his company. Releasing Apple intel before it's time was not a joking matter. The Gizmodo-Redwood bar incident (iPhone 4G) in 2010 and the subsequent Cava 22 Mexican bar case (iPhone 4S) the following year were not dismissed lightly by Jobs.
According to The Grindery report in September, 2011, when news broke that a second prototype was left behind in a bar by an Apple employee, it nearly pushed the CEO over the edge. “What? Again? Are you f*cking kidding me?” yelled Jobs while sitting in his custom-made Aeron chair from the comfort of his home office. “I swear I’m going to kill that a-- oh!"
Many believed that the incidents were too similar in nature and timed too close to their selective launch dates, to be accidents. Wasn't a second loss be too much of a coincidence to be anything other than an Apple stunt? Australian PR and marketing professionals countered that theory by indicating that "stunts like that (were) not in Apple's DNA and in any case, they weren't necessary for Apple to create buzz about its products."
With the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple's new CEO, Tim Cook is cognizant of the comparisons made between him and his predecessor. However when quizzed just recently at the 10th annual All Things Digital Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, May 29-31, 2012, he was quick to point out that "Steve always told (him) to look forward, to not look at the past."
Steve told Cook, when they talked about him taking the reigns: "I saw what happened at Disney," that people would all sit around and say "What would Walt [Disney] have done?" And he looked at Cook with those all-knowing eyes and told him to never do that: Just do what's right. "And I'm doing that. Does that mean that something will be different? Of course," added Cook.
And what better place to start changing up the perception of the company from one that was perceived as holding its cards too close to the vest, to one that could finally take a joke? When the new iPhone TV commercials were released this month featuring actor John Malkovich, the humor that was peppered throughout the commercial had a multi-purpose intent. Funny in its own right for those that not only remembered the bar-iPhone incidents, but doubly humorous for those that realized Apple had matured into a company willing to make fun of itself.
Check out Siri responding to Malkovich's request for "a joke," and note the actor trying to hold back a laugh...
Granted, for those who have no knowledge or recollection of the "lost prototype" stories, some of this humor is lost. But that's where I think the ad copy for this commercial would have been worthy of even Mad Men's Don Draper approval. After all, who hasn't heard the beginning of a joke that starts, "two men walked into a bar," "two drunks walk into a bar," etc. Using "iPhones" as another variation was a genius ploy to appeal to a wider, more universal audience on one level, while giving a nod to those relating to the double-entendre inside joke, on the other.
Hats off to you Siri, and Mr. Tim Cook as well. Next stop, a hosting spot on Saturday Night Live? And yes, Siri, "it was something you said!"