Meet the Detroit Activist Who Stars in Apple’s New iPad Ad
AN FRANCISCO — Apple’s newest iPad commercial turns the spotlight on Detroit community activist Jason Hall, co-founder of a massive weekly group bike ride through the city.
The 30- and 60-second spots — part of the “Your Verse” campaign that focuses on how creative folks use the iPad — shine a lyrical light on Detroit too, where Hall’s Slow Roll bike ride is attracting upwards of 3,000 riders each Monday for a long, leisurely ride that begins and ends at a local bar or restaurant.
“The first time I saw (the spots) I was speechless,” Hall said in an interview with USA TODAY, describing it as like “a gift that had been wrapped for the city of Detroit.”
The ad launches today and focuses on the apps and social media tools that Hall uses to organize and promote the ride (poster-making app Phoster, Instagram and Facebook are instrumental). You see him cycling through a day of planning and mapping a ride. The spot culminates in a shot of scores of bicyclists pedaling with the city as a backdrop. There’s also a page on Apple’s web site that delves into Hall’s story.
The campaign kicked off in January with a moody piece featuring Robin Williams’ creativity-inspiring speech from “Dead Poets Society” quoting Walt Whitman on life as a powerful play to which we all may “contribute a verse.” Other spots showcased Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and travel writer Chérie King, who is deaf.
Also live today is a spot featuring Yaoband, a Chinese group that uses iPad to create and produce their music.
It comes as Apple and competitors face a tablet market slowing from its once-torrid pace. In Apple’s most recent earnings report, iPad sales were a major weak point, although it still has a healthy but declining 51.8% market share according to researcher eMarketer.
Apple and Microsoft, with its Surface Pro 3, are duking it out to market tablets as superior tools for getting things done (as opposed to merely surfing the web and watching YouTube videos). On an earnings conference call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said it’s still “early days” for iPad, with “significant innovation” ahead.
Showcasing real people with impressive creative chops leveraging the iPad is clearly a part of the strategy.
As for Slow Roll’s Hall, his “verse” moves on two wheels.
He and pal Mike MacKool dreamed up the ride four years ago as part of their Detroit Bike City startup, which focuses on Detroit’s growing bicycle culture. “We were just thinking we could show people cool stuff,” he says.
The ride got a viral kick when he began using the Phoster app to make flyers: “You can make it in like five minutes and then post it on Instagram.” The combination quickly drove participation from about 400 to 1,000. Now the Slow Roll ride is spreading to other cities in the U.S. and abroad.
Hall says he and MacKool first bought an iPad to run with the Square mobile payments device (“we make a little money off of t-shirts”).
Among other apps on his go-to list: Evernote’s Penultimate handwriting app, Weather Channel (for alerting riders about route conditions for the night), YouTube and Facebook.
“I am that dude who wants to do it the most efficient way possible,” he says.
About getting tapped by Apple, he says “It sounds like I am a walking commercial but I am really not…I am a lifelong Detroiter. If I can change people’s perspective (on the long-struggling city) I want to do that.”
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