Oct 12

Watching the Samsung-Apple playoffs

Last time Apple went heavy on advertising in a sporting event, it didn’t exactly end well.

But let us not speak of the Genius anymore. All traces of that campaign have been hidden from our sight.

Now the baseball playoffs are here. And once again, Apple has made a very expensive media buy. This time, it’s blanketing the games with the new iPhone 5 ads.

But look. Someone else has moved into the neighborhood. Samsung showed up for the playoffs with equal force, in the form of its Galaxy S III ads. You know — the ones that make fun of the lost souls who line up to buy an iPhone, when they could just as easily have a much cooler Samsung phone.

So as the teams are battling it out in the stadiums, Apple and Samsung are slugging it out during the commercial breaks.

It’s actually an interesting matchup. (Remember, I’m talking about the commercials here and not the phones themselves.)

As I’ve said before, I do think these are the best iPhone ads Apple has ever made. Each one focuses on a distinct feature, making its point in a most human way. Jeff Daniels’ voice stands out, and it’s a perfect match for the Apple brand.

So does Apple’s creativity humiliate the boys of Samsung? Actually, no. When Samsung first started down this mock-the-Apple-cult road, it felt somewhat pathetic. But the latest spots have two things going for them.

First, they’re actually funny. The casting is good, the acting is played straight and the scripts score some points about Apple not exactly being first when it comes to things like a larger screen. What’s said by the Apple fans in line would fit well with the viral hit, Sh*t Apple fanatics say.

But a bigger reason why Samsung’s ads are scoring points is something the company couldn’t have seen coming. Apple has stumbled. A number of things didn’t go right with the iPhone 5 launch — from the Maps fiasco to a variety of other issues (scratches, lens flare, etc.) From a marketing point of view, it’s irrelevant whether these problems are real or blown out of proportion — the fact is, the stories are all over the place.

And right in the thick of it come these Samsung commercials, which use humor to make their aggressiveness more palatable. If you’re Samsung, you have to be pretty happy that you made a big buy in the baseball playoffs right when the negative stories about iPhone 5 were peaking.

This isn’t to say that I prefer Samsung’s ads. I think Apple’s spots are more clear and more charming. And I’m sorry, but I have to laugh when I see the cool Samsung users touching one phone to another to transfer a playlist. Feels a lot like Microsoft asking us to “squirt” songs to one another between Zunes. And you remember how well that worked out.

Call me a prude, but I don’t like the idea of my iPhone mating with another phone like that. At least not in public. Besides, I’m sharing playlists all the time already via Spotify, which requires no touching at all.

But I digress.

I’m a fan of the baseball playoffs, and it’s always fun to see teams slugging it out — above and beyond the ones on the field.

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  • Guest

    When did an iPhone release not “stumble” somehow in the media? The 3GS?

    But of course Samsung isn’t really selling against Apple. They’re cleaning the clock of every other Android maker. So nice of google to do all their software R&D for them.

  • There is always criticism of Apple’s latest phones since the first one. However I have to say every release is getting more stable, faster and more useful. The ads for iPhone are great too. In Australia they use an Aussie voice over though. I haven’t seen the Samsung ads air here but as funny as they are you could talk like that about any phone “have you seen the s3. It’s made of coloured plastic wow’, ‘it’s the size of a phone from the early 90’s how retro’. You can catch me on @samanjj

  • greg

    Ken, I’ve wondered why Apple would switch voiceover actors from time to time. I think the ipad ads with Peter Coyote were some of the best, and I believe they even did one or two ipad ads with another actor, and now have switched back to Coyote for the most recent ipad ads. I agree Jeff Daniels is good, but would it not be better to stick with one, as I think that strategy adds a sense of familiarity to the viewers. Any thoughts?

  • ksegall

    I may not be paying as close attention to the iPad ads as you. I wasn’t aware of any new ones with Peter Coyote, or that they had switched to another voice previously.

    In general, consistency is good. But sometimes there are reasons to switch things up. A philosophical ad about iPad, for example, might not work as well with a quirky voice like Jeff Daniels. And sometimes it’s just time to move on, to keep things fresh. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the Coyote voice, I was definitely ready to move on. It’s a subjective thing, so I know a lot of people don’t agree with me — but I pay more attention to the Jeff Daniels voice, and I find him to be far more likable.

  • Guest

    Regarding Samsung’s anti-iPhone 5 ad, I find, as an iPhone 5 user, the ad off-putting to the point just short of being an affront.
    The most amusing dialogue is said by the guy mentioning the relocation of the audio port – and, it’s his sound effect with his facial expression that make his bit funny. The ad is almost scornful toward someone thinking about purchasing an iPhone 5. At the same time, the ad is essentially Samsung “flipping the bird” to iPhone users while providing juvenile, smug encouragement to the anti-Apple crowd. And now having been subjected to Samsung’s effrontery, since I am an iPhone 5 user, Samsung has generally turned me off toward their products.