Ten Years of Apple iPod Commercials
As the iPod celebrates its tenth birthday, we take a look back at some of Apple’s best commercials.
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Apple celebrated the ten-year anniversary of the iPod this past Sunday and recently released the fifth-generation of its iPod touch. It seems, at least for right now, that it’s all about the iPod. Interesting, we have yet to see a commercial for the new iPod touch. This got us wondering about what we should expect. Flashy silhouetted dancers rocking out to an awesome song we haven’t heard before? Maybe.
Apple products are easily identified by their simple and stylish design. But Apple advertisements are just as recognizable: the “1984″ Super Bowl commercial, the “Think Different” campaign, and the “Mac vs. PC.” We can’t forget, of course, the “iPod people,” silhouetted against brightly-colored backgrounds, dancing and singing as they hold their iPods with the distinctive white earbuds tucked in their ears.
Over the last ten years, Apple has released more than 50 commercials for the iPod and iTunes. Some of them had mini-soundtracks from well-known artists like Bob Dylan, Coldplay, and U2, but Apple also has helped launch the careers of indie artists.
Sandwiched between beer and auto insurance commercials, iPod commercials seem strikingly artistic. They generally run 30 seconds, but in contrast to other commercials, this is time we don’t mind giving up. We rounded up 22 of the best iPod commercials, complete with video. And there’s no Shazam necessary; we’ve listed the artist’s name and the song title for each one for your downloading pleasure. Warning: snippets from these catchy songs may be stuck in your head all day.
Propellerheads â€“ “Take California”
Aired in 2001, the very first iPod ad for the 5GB iPod features a man listening to music on his Apple iBook. He drags his music to his iPod, closes his computer, and plugs his earbuds into his iPod. The music sounds instantly better. He slides his iPod into his shirt pocket, and dances around the room and then out the door.
Jet â€“ “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”
The upbeat tune of Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” was one of the first iPod commercial to feature the now distinct style of the silhouetted dancers against brightly-colored backgrounds. The white third-generation iPod, released in 2003, and its characteristic white earbuds contrasted with the black silhouette and vivid background. This ad also introduced an iPod that was made for both Mac and Windows users.
Gorillaz â€“ “Feel Good Inc”
With the release of the iPod 4G in 2004, Apple launched a number of its silhouette commercials. In addition to the Gorillaz’s commercial, Apple also put out an ad featuring Feature Cast’s “Channel Surfing,” Stereogram’s “Walkie Talkie Man,” Ozomatli’s “Saturday Night,” and Daft Punk’s “Technologic.” The fourth-gen iPod lost its auxiliary buttons and added the clickwheel seen on the iPod mini, also introduced that year.
Apple and U2 released a special edition iPod in 2004 to promote the band’s release of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. The iPod featured an all-black stainless steel enclosure and a red clickwheel to match the album’s color scheme. It also featured an engraving of band member signatures. The commercial is based on the classic silhouette iPod commercial, but this time around, the band members are slightly more visible. Though still darkly shaded, you can make out Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen. The cords of The Edge’s guitar and Bono’s mic are iPod-earbud white.
The Vines â€“ “Ride”
After nine commercials all done in the silhouette style, Apple tried something a little different with its 2005 “Wild Postings” commercial. Set to the song “Ride” by The Vines, a band that made its breakthrough around the same time as The White Stripes, The Hives, and The Strokes, the commercial features a guy walking through the streets of a busy city. He walks past a concrete wall plastered with â€œiPod peopleâ€ posters that come alive and dance as he passes.
Caesars â€“ “Jerk It Out”
The commercial for the first-gen iPod shuffle went back to the usual silhouette style, but this time, it added in the double arrows that represent the “shuffle” icon. The silhouettes boogie on top of the arrows as white iPod shuffles hang around their necks from the shuffle’s handy lanyard. Starting at just $99, the shuffle was the first iPod not to have a display. Referred to as “smaller and lighter than a pack of gum,” by Steve Jobs, the shuffle used a new version of iTunes that would randomly load songs.
The Resource â€“ “Gimme That”
Apple introduced the iPod nano to the world in 2005 with a different style of commercial. Though still minimalist, Apple traded in the silhouettes for a pair of hands against a black background that examined the strange new iPod. Sixty-two percent smaller than its predecessor, the iPod mini, the commercial really allowed the viewer to examine the tiny wonder from all angles. The words “1,000 songs, impossibly small” flash on the screen as another set of hands attempts to snatch the nano away.
U2 â€“ “Original of the Species”
Apple used the same simple black background and hands to introduce its video iPod in 2005. Once again using U2′s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, this commercial starts with a video of U2 performing “Original of the Species.” As the camera pans out, we see that the video is actually being shown on the new video iPod. The slogan “Watch your music” appears on the screen. Other commercials for the video iPod introduced a new style of the silhouetted commercials. Wynton Marsalis’ “Sparks,” Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” and Wolfmother’s “Love Train” all trade in the solid background color for abstract designs. The commercials alternate between the musicians, who are performing their songs, and dancers who are listening to iPods.
RinÃ´Ã§Ã©rÃ´se â€“ “Cubicle”
The next iPod nano commercial to air spotlighted its album art feature. “Cubicle,” by French band RinÃ´Ã§Ã©rÃ´se is the perfect soundtrack to the commercial that shows a city being constructed out of album art and then taken apart as each album falls into the tiny nano. Apple also added its slogan for the first nano: “1,000 songs in your pocket.” The commercial moves quickly, but it’s fun to see how many album titles you can identify as the album art rapidly piles up.
Bob Dylan â€“ “Someday Baby”
Similar to how U2 created a commercial to promote its new album, Bob Dylan promoted his 2006 album Modern Times via iTunes and Apple. Playing “Someday Baby” from his 32nd studio album, Dylan is slightly silhouetted, as is the one iPod-toting dancer. The ad, mostly black and white, takes a much more realistic departure from the almost cartoonish commercials of years past.
Cut Chemist â€“ “The Audience is Listening”
Released in 2006, Apple’s second-gen nano traded in its plastic body for a scratch-resistant anodized aluminum casing that came in a number of eye-catching colors. In addition to a 40 percent brighter screen, it also flaunted a new search option and gapless playback of audio files. Featuring Cut Chemist’s “The Audience is Listening,” the commercial introduced the new nano in reverse color schemes as seen in the previous silhouette commercials. This time around, the dancers and the background were black. The nanos produced a stream of colored light as the dancers moved them around the screen in an imitation of light painting.
Prototypes â€“ “Who’s Gonna Sing?”
Perhaps one of the most memorable iPod commercials, the ad for the second-gen iPod shuffle showcased the new design that introduced the clip. The old lanyard was traded in for a stylish clip that let shuffle owners attach their iPods to their shirts, pants, purses, and so on. The mesmerizing commercial shows people clipping their shuffles on to their clothes to the tune of the Prototypes’ “Who’s Gonna Sing.”
The Bird and the Bee â€“ “La La La”
The year 2007 brought new kinds of Apple commercials to the airwaves. More specifically, the iPhone was introduced and a lot of people were more interested in watching iPhone commercials than those for the tired iPod. However, 2007 also brought us the iPod touchâ€”an iPod that featured the same 3.5-inch multitouch screen as the iPhone, as well as its Wi-Fi wireless networking. The touch was basically the iPhone without the calling capabilities. The first commercial to show off the iPod touch featured The Bird and The Bee’s “La La La” and showed the hands swiping through album art, playing a song, watching “Lost,” and searching on Google. Also in 2007, Apple aired iPod touch commercials featuring “Music is My Hot Sex” by CSS and Brendan Benson’s “The Alternative to Love”.
Feist â€“ “1234″
The third-gen iPod nano featured a shorter, wider, and heavier body and a 2-inch screen. It also introduced video playback, which is showcased in the commercial featuring Feist’s music video for her song “1234.”
Paul McCartney â€“ “Dance Tonight”
In an ad starring the legendary Paul McCartney, the iPod doesn’t even have to appear for viewers to know that it’s an Apple commercial. McCartney walks down a street strumming a mandolin as he plays his song “Dance Tonight” from his 2007 album Memory Almost Full. Animations of shapes change around him, and his silhouette follows him on the street. Also that year, Ã la the classic silhouetted commercials, were ads featuring The Fratellis’ “Flathead,” Mary J. Blige’s “Work That,” and “Mi Swing Es Tropical” by Quantic and Nickodemus.
Coldplay â€“ “Viva La Vida”
Like the McCartney commercial, Coldplay also released an iTunes commercial to promote its new album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, with the song “Viva La Vida.” No iPods appeared in the commercial. The Ting Tings’ â€œShut Up and Let Me Goâ€ commercial also aired in 2008 and would be the last one to spotlight the signature silhouette style.
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour â€“ “Around the Bend”
Featuring a thinner design and built-in speakers, Apple launched a new campaign for 2008′s second-gen iPod touch and 2009′s third-gen iPod touch. The commercials showed, again, only the hands of someone playing with the iPod touch. Now the number one portable game player, the iPod touch gained a faster processor and was marketed to compete with the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS. Portraying a person playing a variety of games using the iPod touch’s gyroscope to tilt the iPod in multiple directions, the touch commercial touts the slogan “The funnest iPod ever.” The following year saw similar commercials featuring Franz Ferdinand’s “No You Girlsâ€ and Tommy Sparks’ “She’s Got Me Dancing.â€
Chairlift â€“ “Bruises”
The fourth-gen iPod nano was introduced in nine colors: grey, black, purple, blue, green, yellow, red, orange, and violet. To really make the variety of colors clear to the viewer, Apple lined up all nine nanos and then sent a rainbow of dripping paint down the screen, scored by the band Chairlift’s song â€œBruises.â€ The nano chromatic was released in 2009 and was the thinnest iPod ever available.
Miss Li – Bourgeois Shangri-La
The first iPod to include a camera for shooting photos and video, the fifth-gen iPod nano also boasted a larger screen than its predecessors. The commercial, featuring Miss Li’s “Bourgeois Shangri-La,” shows a person taking video of a variety of people singing and dancing to the song. Like the fourth-gen version, the updated iPod nano also came in a rainbow of nine different colors.
Cake â€“ “Short Skirt/ Long Jacket”
The sixth-gen iPod nano took a cue from the second-gen shuffle’s commercial. The ad shows the nano clipping on to various pieces of clothing. The nano got rid of the click wheel of model’s past and traded it in for a rotatable touchscreen. It lost its video capture and playback capability, but it still featured album art, which meant when you clipped it onto your jacket pocket, it looked like you were wearing a button of the band you’re listening to. In the case of the commercial, you would be a fan of Cake’s “Short Skirt/ Long Jacket.”
Chappo â€“ “Come Home”
The fourth-gen iPod touch boasted a retina display, making text and images look insanely sharp. In the “All Kinds of Fun” commercial, featuring Chappo’s “Come Home,” the pair of hands from commercials past reappears. This time, they’re videotaping skateboarders, bands, and surfers, and playing an assortment of games. The iPod touch also got a front-facing camera, which allowed for FaceTime video calling.
The Beatles â€“ “I Want To Hold Your Hand”
Something about watching this video still gets us a little choked up. After many years of legal battles, Apple finally obtained the rights to sell the Beatles’ music on iTunes in November of 2010. A number of moving commercials announcing the news used old photographs and video clips, and were edited using the Ken Burns effect. Apple created four more ads featuring “Yesterday,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “All You Need is Love,” and “Let It Be.”