Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Apple iPad Advertising: 35% Superlative Garbage

When a company uses prescription-level hyperbole to advertise a product, something stinks. When it comes to the iPad, Apple veered off its usual course of clever, benefits-oriented language into a merry-go-round of obfuscating candy words.

iPad Advertisement

This is Apple’s tagline for the new iPad.

The first thing that struck me was the utter inanity of the copywriting. Usually Apple has clever, refined, targeted, punchy messages around new products (“5,000 Songs in Your Pocket”). But this is flabby, desperate. It offers no insight into what the device does, or how it benefits the consumer — it’s just a string of empty hyperbole.

Count the Superlatives

iPad Advertisement (Superlatives Highlighted)

According to Apple, this device is “the most advanced”, “magical”, “revolutionary” and “unbelievable”. 35% of the tagline is taken up by over-the-top adjectives.

Elsewhere on the iPad section of Apple’s site, we find “beautiful”, “remarkable”, “vibrant”, “extraordinary”, “amazing” (as well as “positively amazing” and “amazingly powerful”), “easier than ever before”, “incredible” (quite a few times), “fantastic” and “most powerful … ever built”.

Interestingly enough, you know what word fails to appear even once in all of this copy? “Useful.”

Now I thought about devising a clever line graph that shows the quality of a product declining as its advertising runs ever thicker with hyped-up language to create excitement, but it’s not that hard of a concept. The heavier the ratio of candy words, the less there is to say about the product itself. In some cases, a product really will change the world (the wheel, or sliced bread, or those cool shirts that never get wrinkled in your suitcase), or, more likely, there is just nothing about the product that is new, beneficial or news-worthy.

Which kind of sums up the iPad. It’s just a ‘roids version of an iPod Touch — a closed system, mysterious tech specs, no user options beyond the ghetto of the Apps Store. There is nothing new to say about last year’s technology repackaged for suckers.

Truth in Advertising?

So getting back to that dumb headline we started with. It was not written in proper sentence structure (there really is no verb), so we cannot tear it down to the base subject/action level, but we can strip out all of the over-the-top adjectives and decorative words. And when you take the fluff out, you get this:

iPad Advertisement (Stripped Message)

Seems about right to me.

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commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Saturday January 30, 2010

That’s a good point. They did not invented anything here. As they said, they just made another product to fit in between their existing line. They’re here to make ever more money and to create amazing gadgets.
It’s just a tougher technical challenge to create a “big” iPod Touch. It had been there for 3 years just waiting people to get used to the iPhone.

But I quite frankly buy this piece of crappy multi-touch gadget than ANY netbook with Windows on it. Seriously, even tho it’s nothing new a big iPod is so cool. Useless, but cool.


wrote the following on Saturday January 30, 2010

After this post, there is no need to go hunt for another review – iPad is a disappointment indeed !


wrote the following on Monday February 1, 2010

I am with you on this one. What baffled me with the line was how much Jobs used the word “magical” in his keynote. I was like, “OK, Steve, we get it. It’s magical. So what does it really do?”


wrote the following on Friday February 12, 2010

hahah, you nailed it at the last image


wrote the following on Saturday March 20, 2010

I love how each of said superlatives can be translated into its own message. “Most advanced” = we thought of this idea before, but we made it bigger; “Magical” = we know how it works and you do not; “revolutionary” = no one else has had an idea quite this…stupid; “unbelievable”…yes I would say for this product that price really IS unbelievable.