Such Great Lows? Postal Service Upset Over Apple TV Spot

Ads touting Intel partnership bite scenes from 'Such Great Heights' video.

Perhaps you've seen the new commercial touting Apple's highly publicized partnership with Intel. It's the one that features scientists in spacesuit-like clean-room gear, working in a sterile, futuristic laboratory while ambient electronica tinkles in the background.

It's been making the rounds on television and the Internet for about a week now, and to most people, it seems like just another (albeit slightly glossier) computer ad.

But not to Ben Gibbard.

That's because in 2003, he and electro beatsmith Jimmy Tamborello teamed up to release Give Up, the debut album by their electro-pop side project the Postal Service, whose first single was accompanied by a video that also featured space-suited scientists working in a sterile, futuristic laboratory (see "Death Cab Singer Goes Postal With Electronic Side Project").

In fact, the similarities between the commercial and their "Such Great Heights" video were so great that on Thursday Gibbard felt compelled to address the issue via a posting on PostalServiceMusic.net.

"It has recently come to our attention that Apple Computer's new television commercial for the Intel chip features a shot-for-shot re-creation of our video for 'Such Great Heights,' made by the same filmmakers responsible for the original," he wrote. "We did not approve this commercialization and are extremely disappointed with both parties that this was executed without our consultation or consent."

Both the Apple/Intel spot and the Postal Service video were the work of the directorial team of Josh Melnick and Xander Charity, who after shooting "Such Great Heights" secured representation through Tight Films, a Santa Monica, California, commercial production company. According to a spokesperson for Tight, the duo were approached by Apple, who asked them to re-create "Heights" for the company's ad touting Intel-enhanced computers (Melnick and Charity could not be reached for comment).

And while Melnick and Charity's Apple spot is not technically illegal (though it does raise some intellectual-property issues), it upset several people involved with the band. According to a spokesperson for the group's label, Sub Pop Records, Apple did not approach them about the commercial, but rather "just called the day before the whole thing aired to tell us about it. Sub Pop and the band had no idea about the whole thing until it aired."

Apple had no comment on the issue. Gibbard declined to comment further, saying only that the "comment on the Postal Service Web site [is my] statement."

This isn't the first flap Gibbard has found himself involved in thanks to the Postal Service. In September 2004 they were threatened with a lawsuit by the real Postal Service, but both sides were able to solve the issue amicably (see "Postal Service Album Keeps On Delivering").

And it looks like maybe the Apple issue might have a happy ending as well. Late last week the video for "Such Great Heights" appeared on the main page of the iTunes Music Store and has since become the most downloaded music video on the site (ahead of clips by Eminem, Jessica Simpson and the Black Eyed Peas). Apple's spot has also generated renewed talk about the Postal Service on the Music Store and blogs across the Internet, proving once again that there's no such thing as bad publicity.