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IPAD Air Commercial Uses Dead Poets Society Speech

Updated on March 13, 2015
Dead Poets Society, 1989, Motion Picture
Dead Poets Society, 1989, Motion Picture | Source

Apple IPAD Air is capitalizing on the inspirational, classic movie Dead Poets Society in their latest commercial. The commercial opens with the panoramic view of wind turbines out in the ocean. As the commercial continues, a recorded voice over of Robin Williams giving his famous speech from Dead Poets Society begins as the 90 second commercial continues.

No overt reference to the movie is made but anyone who is familiar with the movie will begin to recognize it as the familiar speech from the movie.

Here's an analysis of the commercial and movie and why this is a brilliant advertising campaign by Apple.

Apple IPAD Air Commercial With Dead Poets Society Speech

The commercial opens with wind generators in the ocean and a camera following the back of a woman in a cathedral. Shortly after the speech starts.

Here's a breakdown of the scenes with the speech:

When the speech starts:

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute."

Two children are walking through the forest with their IPAD Air, presumably navigating the terrain and learning about nature along the way.

"We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race."

This scene shows hockey players using an IPAD to analyze game moves and a marching band mapping out a complicated scene.

"And the human race is filled with passion."

This scene shows people examining science (both adults and kids) on the IPAD and then moving to club scene where everyone is dancing and having a good time will the DJ uses is IPAD to help control the music and party.

"Medicine, law, business, engineering. These are all noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life."

This scene opens with an engineer programming a wind power generator. Then it switches to a rescue helicopter using the IPAD to navigate as it looks for those that need help.

"But poetry, beauty, romance, love. These are what we stay alive for."

Then the themes begin to repeat. Two people talking. Back to the photographer and Niagara Falls. People dancing and taking pictures with the IPAD. Someone sending an email. Then the two hockey players are playing. We seem to be moving from the theme of getting the information to now using it to better our lives.

Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman | Source

"To Quote Whitman: O me, O life of the question of these recurring, of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these? O me, O life."

Continuing with the theme of moving and transforming with the IPAD, scenes from the chidlren in the woods flash up as they examine a preying mantis. The woman in the cathedral (before the voice over) is now drawing and painting. There are dancers and mountain climbers. Then a scuba diver is taking pictures underwater with the IPAD and a geisha is dancing as another takes a video. The mountain climbers are mapping their journey."

"Answer: That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse."

The commercial continues with the IPAD as the action grows. The marching band coming together, the science fair project, sumo wrestlers, dancers, Then back to the windmills, the rock singer at the dance party and people on the ocean.

"What will your verse be."

The commercial ends with this line, as the mountain climbers continue across the screen and words IPAD Air flash up.


In the original spech, Professor Keating is speaking to the young men in his classroom at the all male prep school where everything is about discipline, honor and grades.

Keating reaches out to the young men, asking them to embrace the power of poetry and art and to reach for enjoyment and to enjoy themselves while they are young.

As he asks them what their verse will be he looks specifically at the shy newcomer, the one who will ultimately face the greatest challenges of finding himself.

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

Besides Whitman, Dead Poets Society also quotes Herrick.
Besides Whitman, Dead Poets Society also quotes Herrick. | Source

The IPAD commercial deliberately builds to a crescendo of activity and excitement as the words and thoughts of Keating's speech also build in intensity.

As the audience we can see the progression of the characters' project from the science project, to the marching band routine to the children's exploration. As the commercial continues, the participants show success that their projects, goals that were all reached using the IPAD air.

The commercial, just like the original speech, focuses on that final line "What will your verse be" implying that with a tool like the IPAD air, your verse can be as versatile as this new and exciting tool.

Is It Effective For the Target Audience?

In analyzing who the likely intended target of the product is, it is probable that using the quote from Dead Poets Society will appeal to Generation X. Those would be people that came of age when the movie was popular.

It also likely appeals to someone who tends to be more intellectual and is inspired by the messages of the movie.

When I heard the quote I immediately recognized it as the speech from the movie. But that's likely because for me, it is a movie I've watched multiple times. The themes appeal to my interests and ideals.

Is the commercial as effective for those that don't know the movie? The answer is likely yes.

The idea that life is poetry and that for a moment we all get to contribute a verse is a pretty powerful image and one that is likely to strike a chord and resonate with a larger audience than just Gen X.

A Perfect Match

Resurrecting this wonderful but overlooked speech from this classic movie was a brilliant move on Apple's part. I don't know if it will help to sell more IPAD Airs or not but it certainly build an image or thoughtfulness, power, poetry and beauty for the company.

Of course Apple has a history of interesting commercials with deep, literary references starting with their commercial from the 1984 Super Bowl commercial referencing the famous Orwell novel 1984.

While this commercial is not likely to have quite the same impact that commercial had. It surely continues to challenge and move its audience.

Apple's 1984 Commercial

What do you think of the IPAD commercial?

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