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2008 Creativity Award Grand Prize Winner: The Apple iPhone

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Chances are you don't need us to tell you why the iPhone was a major creative moment this year (this story is perhaps one of the few things you've read today without the ubiquitous postscript "Sent from my iPhone"). But as sure as the iPhone struck a chord with well-knit ad and design types, it also rocked the wider world of creativity, communications and business. It was an act of jaw-droppingly beautiful and functional design, it was a pure expression of Apple's brand ethos, it was a media sensation, it was a game changer and, unfettered by category boundaries, our jury (largely A-list ad practitioners) felt that it was the biggest brand idea of the year.

Not only has the all-in-one mobile device—now the definition of a smart, converged media platform—done more for the Apple brand than any ad or press effort ever could, it is a prime example of design-led marketing and the kind of large conceptual leap that is needed to redefine the creative industry.

"The iPhone will be considered as important a cultural milestone as the Ford Model T, Concorde, Walkman and the Chanel two-piece." -- Jonathan Ford
The unprecedented dealings with then-Cingular (now AT&T) that brought the iPhone into being were the first sign of the unstoppable power Apple has claimed since the iPod debut in 2001. Leading up to the June 29 launch, the anticipatory lather was thick—legions waited in lines at Apple stores to be first on their block with the pricey device (most famously, in our circles, Anomaly's Johnny Vulkan, who bagged the first phone sold at the Apple Soho store and auctioned it off for charity Keep a Child Alive). And, like most Apple products, the product itself lived up to the hype, earning rave reviews for its breakthrough touchscreen and overall intuitive interface. Two and a half months after launch (and after a price cut), Apple announced it had sold a million units (at this point, Jobs would remind folks that it took two years for the company to move a million iPods) and recently Apple announced it was on track to meet its goal of selling ten million iPhones worldwide in 2008. Having successfully leapt from its familiar stomping ground into the new mobile frontier, the iPhone set a standard that all mobile companies must now meet. And with Apple's recent unveiling of the iPhone SDK (software developers kit, which allows third party wizards to create applications for the phone), things have only just started to get interesting.

"It's a design/technology turning point that will go down in history—a huge idea that changed how millions of people communicate, to boil it right down," says Ogilvy & Mather Toronto CCO, juror and 2007 Creativity Award Grand Prize winner Nancy Vonk. "Nothing that looks like an ad, no matter how well liked, can say it had this kind of global impact this year."

As for communications, all Apple needed were some ads that simply let the gadget shine, and TBWA/Chiat/Day, L.A. gets credit for delivering exactly that. The product was the centerpiece of Apple's iPhone ads and now, it's at the center of the Apple spotlight and this Creativity Award Grand Prize.

We asked ad and design minds and regular Joes who love their iPhones to weigh in.

Kevin Lyons
Design Director, Anomaly
I think that what Apple does better than anyone else in the world is make innovative, creative products that are extremely appealing to innovative, creative individuals. The iPhone does that for me. My old cell phone was not something that I fully used, nor enjoyed using and as a result never really took advantage of all its capabilities. Thus wasting time and swindling efficiency. The iPhone is so Mac user friendly and quite honestly just flat out so much more aesthetically pleasing to me that I wind up using all facets of the phone itself. In addition, it also synchs so strongly with my MacBook Pro. If Apple made a literal apple I would expect no less. It would feel better and look better than any other apple period.

Ted Royer, ECD, Droga5,
Creativity Awards Jury Member
The iPhone is truly a revolutionary device. There have been so many times someone has pulled one out and shown me something, or solved some problem, in a very cool way. Instantly every other phone looked dated.

Guy Barnett
Co-founder/CD, The Brooklyn Brothers
When I first got the iPhone (I waited a grand total of 37 hours before I bought one) I started playing with it like a kid on Christmas morning. I'd expand web pages with my fingers, scroll through my playlists with a jaunty flick and Google map myself all over the place—all without the benefit of the tutorial. I'd never seen such an intuitive machine before. There was one problem, though. I couldn't work out how to retrieve the keyboard when I wanted to type in a url in the address box. I tried all kinds of things but I just couldn't figure it out. Stumped, I finally looked it up on the Apple site. It said point your finger where you want to type. I did. The keyboard came up. Of all the things I'd tried, I hadn't tried the simplest. That's when I knew the iPhone was much, much smarter than me.

Jonathan Ford
Creative Partner, Pearlfisher
The iPhone. Iconic design or iconic brand? Simply put Apple leads the way as an iconic brand, but importantly it uses iconic design to express this in everything it does. People often confuse the two, but Apple has both, and this is what makes it connect with niche emotional intensity to a mass global market.

The power of its design lies in its graceful simplicity, human intuitiveness and its relevant functionality. These are the things that make the iPhone, like all icons, inimitable, idealized and create a strong sense of belonging. Iconic brands are special because they carry deep evocative meaning. They speak to our most powerful desires and have a defining impact on us. They are an inextricable part of our lives, identity and culture, their biggest challenge is evolving with the times always feeling desirable

All cultures are defined by the artifacts they leave behind, be it stone tools, pyramids and so on. In the future (if not already) the iPhone will be considered as important a cultural milestone as the Ford Model T, Concorde, Walkman and the Chanel two-piece to name a few.

Matt Eastwood, National CD, DDB Australia,
Creativity Awards Jury Member
I almost felt sorry for any piece of work being judged against Apple's iPhone. For me, that single product is in a whole new ballpark. It's as significant as Apple's introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. It changed the game.

Michael Lee
Resident Retoucher, Crain Communications
I didn't have a cell phone before the iPhone. I got it when it first came out and I was the Steve Jobs of Crain because I did so many demonstrations. The iPhone appealed to me because it is the only instrument I need. It is everything I need in one unit: camera, iPod, movies, my entire stock portfolio. The next generation will be the Blackberry Killer.

Brian Collins
Founder, Collins Design
I think the iPhone represents a much larger idea than its practical design utility, its elegant interface brilliance—or even its facility as a trans-media device. The iPhone is a loud challenge—to anyone who works in design or advertising—to recognize that brilliant design creates its own media. That it is the design and the brand experience itself that makes all the difference.

Because today, what people DO with a brand is much more important than what they are simply TOLD. The iPhone is not the sizzle. It is the steak.

The iPhone instantly evolves the idea of design as a cool object (which ad agency cultures still persist in thinking that's what designers do: make stuff look cool) to seeing design as an inspiring OBJECTIVE. A plan for action. A strategy for making remarkable things happen.

For years, I have heard this sentence pronounced with arrogance in the hallways of traditional agencies: "I USED to be a designer, but now I'm an art director." That meant crafting messages (mostly TV) were significantly more important than crafting someone's actual experience. As if churning out yet another TV spot was more important than crafting something that people actually touched and used. And, for generations it was. But today, with design recognition like this, what I think we're about to start hearing is this: "I used to be an art director. But now I'm a designer." I think the future of advertising is design.

And that would be a promising signal that the advertising industry is finally embracing real change. And no longer just talking about it.

Much of the iPhone's technology had been available before, but the iPhone combines it all into an endearingly, engaging interface and empathic product design that makes it beyond irresistible. I mean, who the hell WOULDN'T want one? Most cell phones come with a grim 50-page instruction manual, but I've never picked up any iPhone manual. I instantly knew how to do most everything on it. I am psychotically impatient, but I was happy, up and running on the iPhone instantly.

I think the fact that the Creativity audience has chosen a product over yet another advertising "message" as the winner of the top award represents a coming change for the industry.

Or, look at it this way: Advertising generates problems. Design solves them.

Great product design sells itself. In fact, it even makes its own media because people talk about it and spread the news. Eventually, traditional advertising will be the price companies will have to pay for mediocre design. I mean, when was the last time you saw an ad for Google? Or Facebook?


Check out more of the 2008 Creativity Award winners.
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