U2 and Apple - a step too far or a PR master class?

Simon Dyson/Ovum
19 Sep 2014

Much has already been written on Apple’s mega launch last week and most would agree that unveiling three major new products at one event is just showing off. Apple probably had half of this gear sitting around for years, but it just felt like the company has been lulling its competitors into a false sense of security, before giving them so much to worry about – Samsung has presumably had to hire armies of therapists just to keep its senior execs sane.

Pure Apple theater

Apple CEO Tim Cook has done a good job maintaining the theatrical nature of Apple product launches, even if he lacks Steve Jobs’ more messianic qualities. There were the usual tortured superlatives – the Apple Watch is apparently “Apple’s Most Personal Device Ever,” and that’s saying something as it’s produced some pretty personal stuff in its time. The event choreography has been slavishly maintained, right down to appearances from middle-of-the-road rock acts and the old “…one more thing” chestnut.

Following the launch, various live blogs offered a lesson on objectivity and understatement … NOT. Such was the pace of an event that offered three major announcements in the time it would normally allocate to just one that the ecstatic writers started showing symptoms of chronic over-stimulation. Even the smallest, most incremental revelation was acknowledged with religious fervor and adjectives such as “insane” and “sick” somehow found their way into the breathless narrative.

This event was pretty good, even by Apple standards, and nobody does product launches in quite the same way. Many try, but as Samsung found out at the start of the year, a lot can go wrong. It’s possible that only an Apple level of control-freakery can ensure such things go without a hitch. But Apple appears to have taken its belief that it knows what’s best for its punters a step too far this time.

U2 and the album plug

One of the reasons U2 attended the event was to plug its new album. Thanks largely to Apple and iTunes, the music industry has been tuned on its head. Where bands once toured to promote their album, they now give their albums away to generate demand for live events. This proved to be the case with U2’s latest effort – Songs of Innocence – which was launched for free on iTunes at the event. But the group didn’t stop there; treating universal demand for their new material as a given, the earnest rockers conspired with Apple to push the whole album into everyone’s iTunes account, which amounts to around half a billion people.

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