Apple’s ‘Misunderstood’ Christmas ad is a sad commentary on culture and does Apple no favors

“Everyone else seems to love it,” Jennifer Rooney writes for Forbes. “It is being referred to as ‘endearing’ and ‘touching,’ eliciting a ‘merry little cry.’ It will ‘tug at heartstrings,’ even. It’s a new commercial for Apple’s iPhone 5s and its AirPlay technology.”

“I caught it on TV last night, and I couldn’t disagree more. It’s called ‘Misunderstood,’ as in misunderstood teenager,” Rooney writes. “I found it depressing, upsetting, and a sad commentary on our social-, video- and image-obsessed culture. The goal, of course, was to market the wonder of the iPhone using the element of surprise: show a seemingly slacker teen disengaged from the goings-on of family life, his eyeballs glued to his iPhone – save for very fleeting moments – suddenly reveals to stunned family members a touching video he’d made of their Christmas merriment. That he’d been creating all day.”

“The problem is that while he was creating, he wasn’t really living the day, he was a mere voyeur during it,” Rooney writes. “The message? Life is better through video. Don’t live life, tape it… Are we happy that this year’s Thanksgiving and Hanukkah was Instagram’s busiest ever? This commercial glorified that reality. And I don’t think it is a positive message.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’re of two minds on this one:

“Misunderstood,” indeed.


Rooney does have a point worth thinking about. In fact, over the past year or so, we’ve taken to NOT recording our childrens’ dance recitals, skiing trips, concerts, and everything else precisely because we found that we couldn’t really remember very well what happened. There’s a time and a place to record video and shoot stills, but it’s definitely not all the time.

We’ve gone back to experiencing the moment with our organic hardware instead of holding an iPhone between our eyeballs and life.

You should, too.

The ad is an interesting spot, but there’s something flawed if it leaves some thinking, “But, he missed Christmas Day!”

(And, we only called it “touching” because it worked on multiple levels.)

Related article:
Apple debuts touching new ‘Happy Holidays’ TV ad (with video) – December 16, 2013


  1. @thesasfact

    While you do a terrible job of trying to describe Tim Cook with your ridiculous theories, you did a great job showing that you’re a complete nut job. Just a heads up, you are not nearly as intelligent as you seem to think you are (I’m being generous). Oh, and way to hide behind an anonymous name. Who woulda thought that statement came from a coward? Shocking!

  2. part of xmas past was my grandfather and father with their super8’s going and 35mm and Flash bulbs galore… remember the single serving flash bulbs good for like 8 flashes and others for 4 flashes.

    So STFU about family photography and video on xmas… it’s the only time of year we are all together… and for the people who are in the hospital or family members whose flights are cancelled, it brings us together.

  3. Interesting I rather liked the advert and the point it was making. And that comes from someone who hates the idea of people recording rather than living the event. Surely the message here was that it brings people together even when it seems the gap is unbridgeable

  4. LOL, whats even funnier is that the “AD” is to sell something, and you bitch about it? WTF.. its an AD, not a commentary about what is wrong with the American family and the ever needless debate of Christmas as a holy day or one of overindulgence! The ad made you think, which is good, but it made you think Apple, which is Awesome, for Apple that is 🙂

    1. I had a similar reaction, jaundiced by Samsung’s ads putting video on a TV and claiming the next big thing is here. Apple’s ad once again makes the Apple ecosystem the hero, but in a really emotionally touching way, not like Samsung using their device in a business setting.

  5. Gotta disagree with Ms. Rooney’s take on Apple’s brilliant holiday video. But first, let me agree that often photographing a moment dilutes it and renders the experience less powerful.

    But that’s not what’s happening here.

    What’s happening in the video (among other things) is an artistic adventure, a segment of creation that provides a gift from an artist to his family and friends. It’s his way of communicating with his family.

    The video harkens back to millennia of discussions of art and life, but more cogently to Steve Jobs’s insistence that Apple, Inc. be a marriage of technology and humanity (art!).

    The ad itself is a wonderful blending and caught the Coca-Cola Santa Norman Rockwell, teenage angst, state of the art art and technology in just a few non intrusive seconds.

    Want to study the power of art first hand? Pay attention during 2014 to the spin off versions of the ad from dullard copycats, manufacturing a sub genre that will persist until Apple shares a different insight later in the year.

  6. MDN Take – “But, he missed Christmas day”. Nooooo, he filmed the time leading up to Christmas Day. He showed his video gift Christmas morning as they were all around the tree to open their gifts. I always hear people say why don’t we “make” more gifts to exchange. Make things more personal. Just because this teen used a iPhone camera, doesn’t make it any less creative. Personally if my teenage son went to all this effort, I would be thrilled.

  7. I must forcefully disagree with the author. This ad is one of the most brilliant spots I’ve ever seen. Yes, it is a commercial about the iPhone and the cool things you can do with it. However, more importantly, it is a commentary on our tendency to judge those who are different (or think different). The commercial leads us into thinking that the teenager is disengaged and hiding in his phone, when really he is deeply emotionally engaged and working hard to contribute meaningfully to the family experience. The ad says something profound about our tendency to misunderstand those who don’t conform to our expectations. Given Tim Cook’s comments this week about tolerance, I find the ad even more profound. It is at once a commercial for a product and a deep value statement by the company.

  8. Teenagers would rather be almost anywhere else than at a large family gathering. (Please remember what it was like when you were a teenager and “kept” apart from your friends by family responsibilities before you rip into me.)

    He *was* participating in the family Christmas by being the undercover videographer. Not participating would have shown him in sulking in the corner with those famous white earbuds in *both* ears.

    Yes, we do spend too much time with our faces in our screens. Parents do miss a lot of life because they are more worried about capturing the moment than living in it. However, I don’t think this teenager missed anything. He got to share with his family the sights, sounds and memories of Christmas from his point of view.

    It is an excellent add. The kinds people have been bellyaching for Apple to make since the 2012 Olympics ads.

    MDN, get over it.

  9. As a photographer on a newspaper, I can testify that most reporters, including Jennifer, are clueless when it comes to photography. Anyone who saw the video can see that the kid had a blast photographing and interacting with his family while doing so. The greatest joy the kid in the story probably got was showing his work to those he loved. (I know, I know, he’s an actor)

    I’m not too surprised by Jennifer’s interpretation, make that misinterpretation of the story, most reporters couldn’t shoot their way out of a brown paper bag.

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