Apple used to make celebrities wait for its products. Now, they’re jumping the queues
One of the things I’ve always loved about Apple is its attitude to celebrities. With other firms, the celebrity is the person you pay to promote your product. With Apple, the celebrity has always been the product.
Apple didn’t believe in letting people jump the queue, no matter who they were. As NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal recalls, his fame cut no ice when he tried to get the first iPhone from Steve Jobs. “I used to call him every other day," he said. “Can I please get one first? Can I please get one first? He never gave me one. He said, ‘Shaq, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.’” Many other celebrities (and their agents) tell similar stories. If you wanted the latest Apple product, you got in line with everyone else. But not anymore. While the rest of us waited for an opportunity to order the Apple Watch, the devices started to turn up in celebrity snaps. We saw the Watch on Kanye West’s wrist. We saw the Mickey Mouse face superimposed on Katy Perry’s fishnet-stockinged legs. We saw Drake wear an entire red ensemble to match the colour of his Sport Band. And we saw fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld wearing a fantastically vulgar custom gold Watch worth $25,000. It looked like something you would find in an Egyptian pyramid. Is the Watch really the celebrity here? Celebrity endorsements work. They work even though we suspect the celebrity doesn’t have a clue how to charge the device, let alone make sense of apps. They work even when the celebrity undoes all the good work, such as when Samsung pays celebs to promote its phones and they post their praise from iPhones, or go on Twitter to tell tales of their Samsung wiping all their data.
I have nothing against celebrities. I like to see Zooey Deschanel in Apple ads, because she’s lovely. I like to see blatant Apple product placement in films and TV shows, because if the programme’s boring I can count the Apple kit instead. And I’m aware that other firms go much further, whether that’s Samsung’s White Glove meetings with celebs. Or the practice of appointing will.i.am, Lady Gaga or Alicia Keys to some meaningless creative role as Intel, Polaroid and BlackBerry did. But still, this feels very un-Apple. Would Steve Jobs have begged Beyoncé, or courted Kanye or Katy? I think we all know the answer.
If we can judge a company by the company it keeps, then it’s clear that Tim Cook’s Apple is starting to think very differently. Freelance writer Gary Marshall bought an Apple Watch Sport. “Don’t buy one if you have young kids," he warns. “It’s a toddler magnet.”
We saw Karl Lagerfeld wearing a fantastically vulgar custom gold Watch worth $25,000