Ap­ple hired “The Rock” to get you to fall in love with Siri again

Fewer peo­ple are talk­ing to the vo­cal as­sis­tant

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Hay­ley Tsukayama

Ap­ple wants ev­ery­one to like Siri. Ev­ery­one – it seems – likes Dwayne “the Rock” John­son. There­fore, it makes sense to show the Rock lik­ing Siri.

That at least seems to be the logic of a new com­mer­cial from Ap­ple, fea­tur­ing John­son – Hol­ly­wood’s high­est-paid ac­tor and (se­ri­ously) pos­si­ble fu­ture pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Get­ting peo­ple to like Siri is crit­i­cal to Ap­ple now, not only be­cause it faces an in­creas­ingly crowded mar­ket for vo­cal as­sis­tants – as ev­ery­one from Google to Sam­sung tries to cre­ate soft­ware that lets you talk to your gad­gets to get things done. And the com­pany is count­ing on Siri to power its own home vo­cal as­sis­tant, the HomePod speaker, that’s due in De­cem­ber.

While Ap­ple was the first ma­jor smart­phone-maker to put a voice as­sis­tant in its de­vices, it has faced strug­gles in the past few years and no longer holds an un­con­tested po­si­tion at the top.

Sure, Ap­ple still holds a lead over its com­peti­tors in terms of how many peo­ple use Siri – 41.4 mil­lion for Siri, the re­port said, to Ama­zon.com’s 2.6 mil­lion and Mi­crosoft’s 700,000 – ac­cord­ing a re­cent study from Verto An­a­lyt­ics.

But Siri en­gage­ment has dropped about 15 per­cent over the past year, TechCrunch re­ported, mean­ing peo­ple are not us­ing it as much as they once did. En­gage­ment on other as­sis­tants, in­clud­ing Mi­crosoft’s Cor­tana and Ama­zon’s Alexa have mean­while seen their en­gage­ment more than triple.

That slump­ing en­gage­ment could ex­plain why, in an ex­tended ad re­leased July 23, Ap­ple high­lights the fre­netic pace at which Siri can keep you in­formed and fo­cused on your goals.

The ad may seem a bit of a let­down af­ter some spec­u­lated Ap­ple would tap John­son for a movie to fur­ther Ap­ple’s own push for orig­i­nal con­tent, but nev­er­the­less, in a 3:45 spot, John­son and his com­pa­tri­ots con­sult Siri at least 11 times.

Ap­ple also plays up an ad­van­tage that Siri holds over, for ex­am­ple, Alexa: its mo­bil­ity. While Ap­ple is on the cusp of re­leas­ing a sta­tion­ary speaker it­self, it still makes sense to high­light that Siri is also avail­able on the go and in­te­grated into the phone. That hands-free, voice-ac­ti­vated abil­ity comes in handy in the com­mer­cial when, for ex­am­ple, John­son is do­ing some light touchups on a Sis­tine Chapel-like ceil­ing in Rome af­ter redi­rect­ing an Akron, Ohio-bound plane to the Eter­nal City.

John­son also uses Siri in the ad to set re­minders, cre­ate to-do lists, read email and call a Lyft. He does not use Siri or Ap­ple Maps for nav­i­ga­tion, which is some­what hi­lar­i­ous given Ap­ple’s past prob­lems com­pet­ing with Google Maps. One can only as­sume that calm, or­derly nav­i­ga­tion wasn’t as ex­cit­ing as the stunt driv­ing se­quence that did make it into the spot.

The ad is, how­ever, mostly an ad for the Rock, as CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk points out. The parts of it that are cool are about the Rock be­ing cool.

Be­cause, re­ally, what would make Siri more use­ful is not what you can make splashy ads about. That in­cludes, for ex­am­ple, bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of ba­sic hu­man speech, and more fea­tures that are truly use­ful – things you need even if you never po­litely hi­jack a plane to go to Italy. Siri’s been steadily im­prov­ing, but the thing that turns peo­ple off of us­ing it is that it doesn’t work con­sis­tently enough to do the things they want it to do.

Cour­tesy New Line Cinema

Dwayne “The Rock” John­son is team­ing up with Siri.

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