Siri-ing John Malkovich

Apple is continuing its “famous person uses Siri” commercials by bringing in famous person John Malkovich to add a soupçon of Old World weltschmerz and philosophizing to what is, in short, a way to schedule a wake-up call without unlocking your phone. The commercials feature Malkovich in what appears to be the house above the nasty places in Hostel where he muses on fine meats and the meaning of life.

I don’t quite get these celebrity appearances but, in the end, I suppose they’re good for brand awareness. Siri isn’t for the geeks – it’s for the folks who may have once been in love with BlackBerries. Siri suggests a certain ease, a certain subsumed technicality that would draw in the C-level exec and, in parallel, well-known superstars. It is, in short, a little assistant that will never talk back to you, never ask for a raise, and never request that you stop cursing.

That they chose Malkovich for this one is a little odd on the surface but it makes sense: Malkovich’s audience these days is the indie-film-loving, ironic post-gen-X C-level business person who is adult enough to be able to spend a little money on a 4S yet still is wary of being marketed at. A similar demographic targeting is shown in the choice of Samuel L. Jackson (the just-below-Mensa-level adventure/action loving geek who remembers Mace Windu’s sword) and Zooey Deschanel grabs the plugged-in hipster demographic. If you extrapolated this further into an older demographic you could almost foresee commercials featuring Betty White and maybe Leonard Nimoy.

For those who find these a bit out of character, I suggest we go back and look at the Mac vs. PC ads that featured two memorable faces who, arguably, cannot be disassociated from that campaign. You can’t look at John Hodgman – even with his sassy little mustache – and not see that poor, put-upon PC being shown up by Justin Long.

The iPod advertising was genius because it made everyone think they could move like a sinuous dancer to the lilting chords of Jet. These new commercials allow a certain type of consumer to associate him or herself with a certain archetype. As inclusive as Apple seems to its fans, it’s still important to segment those still on the fence and, one by one, speak directly to them.