New Apple ad does some voice-first education with The Rock and Siri unnamed2

How do you teach people how to use an interface that’s invisible? That’s been the marketing communications problem for Apple since the day Siri became the first big mass-market voice assistant.

They’ve taken stab after stab at it. The splash page that offers Siri suggestions if you activate it and don’t say anything. TV spots; tool tips; App Store promotions and interviews you may or may not have read about how much work they’re putting into Siri. They’re all an attempt to get you beyond the basic timer and weather queries.

And, more recently, they’re an effort to acclimate iPhone users to the idea that Siri represents all of the various applications of Apple’s AI and ML work – beyond the vocal personality most people have come to associate with Siri.

The penetration of Siri as ‘that thing you ask things on your phone’ is incredibly broad but very shallow. And true, consistent, daily utility is how you get people hooked on a platform.

Put plainly: Apple needs to teach people how capable Siri is of helping them out on a daily basis.

This time around, it has enlisted Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock, our current action movie king and future President.

The three minute ad spot (somewhat confusingly reported by some sites as a “movie” based on a Johnson tweet earlier today) is debuting on YouTube. The lengthy spot is episodic in nature, making it fairly simple to cut down for TV viewing or pre-roll applications.

According to a response Johnson made to me on Twitter earlier today, the spot comes from Apple and Seven Bucks Productions, the production company Johnson co-founded with Dany Garcia.

The premise is that Johnson has an insane schedule complicated by some additional bucket list “life goals” and he needs Siri’s help to get it all done. It’s quick, most of the segments are pretty funny and all of it is pretty. It feels very expensive — not even counting that Johnson was the highest paid actor in the world in 2016.

Despite the earlier angst, it is also very much an advertisement, not a movie. And as an ad I feel it’s fairly effective. The uses of Siri highlighted run the gamut from very obvious and well known to somewhat more obscure but still useful.

Though there are a lot of people out there that are incredibly bullish on voice first interfaces, I’m convinced that there is a very real danger of them becoming a huge fad because people cannot be convinced that they are indispensable.

As voice first interfaces like Amazon’s Echo, Google Assistant and Siri permeate the public consciousness the question of how to get people to understand their utility and convince them to continue to use them regularly is going to be top of mind for the core companies trying to make “fetch” happen, so to speak.

The spot is up on YouTube this evening.