If The Graduate is any indication, there’s a great future in plastics, and Apple seems to think so, too. In its ad for the new iPhone 5C, “Plastic Perfected,” Apple seeks to emphasize the new phone’s “unapologetic” plasticity.
But it is not the plastic in the usual sense, which is to say, cheap and insubstantial. Rather, Apple emphasizes one aspect throughout the 5c ad. Virtually the entire spot consists of swirling, liquified plastic morphing into colorful iPhones – a clear emphasis on the device’s consciously playful vibe. It is a clear departure from the iPhone 5 or 5s, whose visual marketing was based around glinting edges and an austere gunmetal palate. Even the music, “Rill Rill” by the Sleigh Bells, is playful and upbeat, rather than soulful and introspective like the music in Apple’s vaunted “Photos Every Day” ad.
Plastic Perfected is, ultimately, Apple’s return to color, and, incidentally, a step toward (slightly) more affordable pricing. But, as Jony Ive is quick to point out, the plasticity-color dynamic is not one of cheapness, but of intentional craftsmanship. An iPhone 5c and a Samsung Galaxy both have plastic shells, but Apple wants you to think that theirs is a design choice, rather than a cost-saving measure, that theirs is both fun and functional, and that theirs is, in short, “perfected.” To a similar visual end, “Plastic” brings to mind another Apple ad, for the iMac, from an earlier era. This short also features swirling, rounded plastics, an upbeat musical track, and an emphasis on color.
Apple’s expansion from monochrome and aluminum to plastic and colorful marks an interesting transition in terms of the company’s products, its corporate strategy and its marketing. Whether these colors will make their way to other Apple products remains to be seen. Until then, I’m holding out for something in Alfa Romeo Red.