Apple’s ‘Dive’ ad for iPhone is a tacit admission that the ad industry’s ageist, but we dig it anyway

Apple picked a great moment – in the nail-biting seventh game of the World Series – to unveil a 60-second spot for the iPhone 7 starring a still-anonymous senior citizen.

The :60 (which cost $1M to broadcast once in the World Series) was created by TBWA, and shot at the spectacular aquatic facility built for the Barcelona Olympics. But the decision to cast a senior citizen as a star – in a spot where he’d be wearing a bathing suit, no less – was even more striking than the cost of air time or the setting.

I asked TBWA about the spot, but the agency has not yet replied to my enquiries. The action begins at poolside, where a 60-something bather is lounging beside a 20-something woman. The older man turns up the volume on his iPhone speakers (demonstrating the impressive volume the unit can put out) and lays it carelessly in a small puddle (demonstrating, I presume, water-resistance).

Then the dude makes the long climb to the 10-meter platform, striding imperiously past another older gentleman; handing his sunglasses to a baffled kid; not deigning to even glance at a young guy with a man-bun. He pauses briefly at the edge of the platform. It’s not clear whether this is all for that (much) younger woman’s benefit or not.

He launches himself from the platform and for a moment, it seems we’re about to see an epic belly flop. But at the last moment, he snaps into a vertical entry and rips a pretty good dive.

“What the heck did I just see?” I wondered, when this spot appeared in Game 7?

The ad has a kind of Wes Anderson/ironic feel, and if you think about it the old diver’s a bit of douche, turning the speakers up like that. But he is clearly the hero of both the ad and his own life.

On the face of it, it could be an ad specifically directed at older male consumers. That’s not a crazy assumption. According to Slice Intelligence, men outspend women, and men over 65 are the top spenders (per capita).

That said, seniors account for less than 25% of Apple’s device business. So it’s far more likely that TBWA’s casting choice was driven by the desire to create a spot that stands out. In that sense, ironically, the diver is striking because he is so unexpected as a character. He’s unexpected because the ad industry is otherwise so ageist.

So where does this leave us here at Re:? Well, the spot currently has a 99.3% positive rating on which is outstanding, and it’s been viewed well over a million additional times on YouTube. I’d have to say it’s a win for TBWA and Apple, and give it an ‘Eh!’ grade, because even if the senior’s being exploited, he’s being exploited in a way that other senior consumers – especially men – are gonna’ like.