Apple, OK GO and the Conundrum of Creative Parallels

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At last Tuesday’s momentous iPhone 6/ Apple Watch launch, Apple also premiered Perspective, a video that moves through space to reveal hidden typography in artfully executed scenes and angles.

The video is a bold manifesto and a stunning expression of Apple’s credo (Think different), but viral video band OK GO is not sure the idea is all that different. In fact, the band’s manager asserts that Apple borrowed the idea from their recent music video, The Writing’s On the Wall.

As with anything, there are two sides to the story.

The video for The Writing’s on the Wall also uses optical illusions as the band and camera move through a warehouse, getting increasingly bizarre and almost dizzying as the song progresses. It’s undoubtedly creative and unabashedly clever (as, of course, we can always expect from a band who won our hearts with a massive Rube Goldberg machine and a perfectly choreographed treadmill dance routine).

The techniques used in OK GO’s video are not exactly uncommon. Both Apple and OK GO’s idea employ visual tricks called anamorphic illusions and forced perspective, known to have been used by classical artists like Leonardo Da Vinci. More recently, the style has been made famous by contemporary artists and photographers (namely George Russe and Felice Varini who have been transforming spaces since the mid eighties).

However, according to this interview with Business Week, the band had pitched the idea to Apple in April. When the brand declined, OK GO made the video themselves. Five months later, Apple allegedly hired the same production company and director to create Perspective. While there are some clear stylistic differences between the two videos, there’s clearly a significant level of overlap.

Collaboration and homage are great ways to leverage existing audiences, but it’s up to marketers to use that moment to provide thought leadership and perspective, not just reinterpret an existing idea. At its best, content marketing has the opportunity to express bigger brand ideals and tell compelling stories in unexpected ways.

A brand’s content should, at the very least, meet the same level of innovation and originality as the products and services it provides. The most successful will go one step further to create work that is as compelling as it is creative, connecting with audiences in a way that feels both revelatory in its approach and genuine in its expression. None of this means we should be any less excited about all the drool-worthy functionality of the Apple Watch or feel guilty about Perspective making the hair on the back of our necks stand up. Apple has mastered of the fine art of manipulation, both in delivering products consumers crave and creating inspirational content. But that’s exactly why borrowing from such a hugely popular video feels a bit off-brand.

When creating content, the goal is to share your brand’s principles and passions in a new way – an even more daunting task for a product launch as epic as that of iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. What’s your take on Perspective: creative homage or sneaky appropriation?

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