“Everyone’s a critic,” goes the old expression. Apple certainly found that out when they chose to debut their new Mac ads on the Olympics.
Thousands of journalists, bloggers and commenters couldn’t resist the lure. That’s because whether you liked the ads or not, they were clearly a departure for Apple.
Personally, I got a ton of comments and emails on this topic. Plus, I happened to be on the road last week and got an earful in real-time — and I wasn’t the guy who kept bringing it up.
In San Francisco, I met with Forbes technology blogger Connie Guglielmo. (She has some great coverage of the Apple-Samsung trial, by the way.) What made her head spin was the fact that Apple has been telling people for decades that its products are easier to use than those of its competitors, and here they are saying that ordinary people need help.
What’s missing for her in these ads is the fact that Apple customers achieve any results by themselves. They seem clueless from the start — like the man on the plane who is befuddled by iMovie. For Connie, it would have been different had the man said “Look, I created this fantastic movie for my wife on our anniversary, I’ve got all these great transitions and titles, I’m just not sure how to add the sepia effect. Can you help?”
Instead, the ads make the customers look lost and frantic from the get-go — which flies in the face of the Apple’s age-old advantage. I think that’s what is making a lot of people uncomfortable.
Thanks to all of you who offered up comments, both for and against. It’s been a fun discussion.
To be honest, I was surprised to find that there are people who can’t accept that Apple’s previous campaign, Mac vs. PC, was a success. I suppose that, like a politician, one could spin the facts any number of ways. But if you’re a marketing person, and you have any grip on reality, you can only conclude that Mac vs. PC was the most successful campaign in Apple history — and one of the most successful in history, period.
It struck a chord with the vast majority of viewers. It became legitimate water-cooler conversation over a period of four years. It lured new customers into the Apple Stores, fueling the relentless growth of Mac’s market share. It gave new ammunition to Apple’s core of enthusiastic supporters. And yes, it did anger a small group of people.
However, we all know that it’s impossible to please everyone, and those offended by this campaign were a tiny minority. In fact, the campaign was so successful, it became part of our culture, spawning hundreds of parodies and imitators.
So why is it okay for Apple to anger a subset of users with the Mac vs. PC campaign, but not okay to do the same with the new Genius campaign?
Simple. In the case of Mac vs. PC, most of the disgruntled viewers were the hard-core PC people Apple had written off eons ago. In the case of the new ads, it’s incurring the wrath of the core supporters who together add up to one of Apple’s most powerful marketing weapons.
There is still room for debate on the new campaign. But you only have to open your eyes to confirm that there is a very real disturbance in the force.
No Apple ad campaign has ever been met with this kind of criticism. Certainly there have been individual clunkers, but in this case we’re talking about a concept that was obviously designed to run over an extended period of time.
I can guarantee that Apple was surprised by the reception to this campaign. So none of us should be surprised when the campaign either changes course significantly or quietly disappears in the months ahead.