Jul 13

Behind the “Apple ads flop” story

Last week, a story spread through the Applesphere that Apple’s new brand commercial, Our Signature, is a flop.

This, according to Ace Metrix, which is in the business of researching such things for its clients. (See Bloomberg Businessweek story here).

On the heels of this story came another, in which it was revealed that Ace Metrix has on its client roster a company called … Samsung.

Naturally, that revelation sparked some good conspiracy theories. Like this one: Maybe Ace Metrix is saying that the ad is bad because in fact it’s really good. But since Samsung is pulling the strings, they’re saying it’s bad so Apple might believe the numbers and take it off the air. Score another point for Samsung.

Hold on there, fellas.

I like conspiracy theories as much as the next guy, and Samsung’s evil tentacles may indeed stretch into dark places we can’t see, but … c’mon.

There’s not much of a story here.

Companies like Samsung go heavy on research. They believe that these “learnings” enable them to do more of the stuff that gets good ratings, and less of the stuff that gets bad ratings. It also allows them to evaluate their ads against the performance of their competitors’ ads, and rationalize to management the big bucks they’re spending on marketing.

Further, it is no surprise at all that Samsung’s recent ads would score more points than Apple’s in this type of research.

Apple’s Signature ad is quiet and thoughtful, waxing philosophically about the company’s beliefs. Samsung’s ads tend to employ humor, tout never-seen-before smartphone features and appear on TV’s highest-profile shows.

I’m not judging the worth of one ad over another, because there are many things to consider beyond like/don’t-like types of data. I’m saying I’d be extremely surprised if a quiet ad beat out the more in-your-face humorous ads.

There are certain things you expect from research, and not all of them are good. This is one reason why Steve Jobs had an allergic reaction to consumer research. If Apple ran its business strictly by the numbers, its products and its advertising would look very different.

The only thing I find odd about this caper is that Ace Metrix saw fit to release its findings publicly. If they did this research on behalf of its client Samsung, one would expect them to simply deliver that information to its client and collect a fee. If it is to be released publicly, why would Samsung pay them for it?

This is all sheer conjecture, but it’s easy to imagine that Samsung saw the opportunity to fuel the anti-Apple flames with this research and thus authorized Ace Metrix to release it. Good publicity for Ace Metrix and good buzz for Samsung.

But if that’s true, we might not want to blame the data — only those who are manipulating it.

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  • Honix

    A couple of other notes: Ace Metrix released this opinion based on a survey of only 500 people. Could or could not be a good sample size. Also, Ace Metrix is the company that gave the Microsoft Surface “dancing & clicking” ads a better score than the Apple “signature” ads. Just sayin’

  • AdamChew

    If we don’t know what kind of questions are asked in the survey we will never know how they skewer the result.

    One thing we know that they have a client called Samsung and that is more than enough to called the survey bias, eh Ken, the past is not the future and give it a rest.

  • Jim

    All I know is that my mother (in her upper 80s now) hasn’t mentioned an add to me on quite some time, either Apple or Samsung or anything else.
    But out of the blue on the phone the other night she brought up this new Apple ad. She remembered it as something different, something definitely from Apple (that is a big one that many adds don’t do well on – company name recollection) and actually talked about its content.
    She knows that I live for my Apple things (and she kind of does too) but she never remembers any adds, including other Apple ones.
    I suspect her survey of one results are more telling than a directed survey that gains web hits.

  • Andrew F.

    I’m not a fan of the ad, so I agree with the dumb survey that was conducted. This is really sentimental stuff. Apple’s ads seem like they’re trying to coax me to sleep lately. I much preferred the WWDC video over this sugary wank.

    Obviously, its much easier to have an opinion than to have an idea that faces extremely tough public scrutiny, but since this must have gotten the ok from various apple execs, I’m guessing they’re feeling awfully reverential about themselves right now. After iOS 7, I kind of agree. Apple is firing on all cylinders (except the marketing cylinder).

    I’m curious to find out from Ken if he thinks the text-based video that opened WWDC would work as a TV commercial.

  • “Something different.”

    Sounds like the ad nailed it.

  • MonkeyT

    It is outlandish to believe that Samsung might enlist a hired gun in a grand conspiracy to discredit Apple’s advertising efforts, I sincerely doubt they would release info about a competitor’s ads at a client’s request – there’s just too much chance that they would get a reputation for being a lackey. However, while they would NEVER issue a press statement on their own initiative that might deliberately make one of their existing customers look bad, it’s not too farfetched to believe that Ace Metrix might leak unflattering info they gathered about an Apple campaign merely to strengthen their relationship with an existing customer. In so doing, they merely lessen the chances of getting business from Apple which they already don’t have.

  • Xian

    FWIW, I contacted Bloomberg after the story appeared and asked why they didn’t cite the conflict of interest with regard to Samsung being an Ace client.

    Their response was that Samsung hasn’t been a client since April.

  • I’d like to know all the metrics they used to measure this ad’s performance. I read that it scored low at informing viewers, which seems obvious to me in comparison to an ad that lists the specs of its products. This isn’t a product ad, and shouldn’t be compared using metrics suited for product ads.

    Also I find it interesting how so many people were calling this Apple’s best ad in a decade when it came out, and now everyone is so quick to say they hate it. I think it’s a good ad. Not the best they’ve ever done, but solidly good. It makes me feel more positive about the company than negative, for sure.

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  • The fact is – you do not appear to have any idea as to whether Samsung manipulated the study or not. You are defending them simply because you believe that “numbers don’t lie.”

    But this is simplistic. It is easy to manipulate questions or the sample set of respondents so that what appears to be non-partial is anything but. Samsung has a history of manipulating information – from release numbers of shipped units and not units sold, to paying college kids to denigrate its competition. So people have good reason to be suspicious.

    One thing is clear, if Ace Metrix were completely honest, then they would have noted in advance that Samsung was a client.

    Mark Twain famously noted “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics!”

  • Golden

    “Companies like Samsung go heavy on research.” Exactly! Researching how they can best steal innovative ideas from anyone and everyone (they aren’t proud) and turn out a low-quality commodity that lead WalMart types to believe that they are using the latest and greatest technology.

  • Paulakero

    Conspiracy theory? Not possible?

    Have we forgotten that Samsung had hired people to make fake reviews and other dirty marketing tactics against rivals like HTC, was investigated by Asian trade bodies and Samsung had to publicly apologize?

    International Business Times:

    “Responding to the malpractice accusation, Samsung admitted that the company had used dirty marketing tactics. Apologising for the untoward incident, the company said in a statement: “The recent incident was unfortunate, and occurred due to insufficient understanding of these fundamental principles”

    Have we forgotten that Chairman Lee of Samsung was a convicted felon sentenced to years in jail for fraud, tax invasion and only came out due to a pardon from his pal the president of Korea. Also that samsung family members who run different divisions are continually suing each other for breach of contract etc for millions of dollars, the latest was billion dollar fight for inherited assets of Samsung? (Don’t believe me, just internet search ‘Samsung Family Lawsuits’ )

    a company run like that is “c’mon” unlikely to stoop down to attack apple like this, it’s just unfounded “conspiracy theory” ? Samsung actually has the exact profile to indulge in it.

  • Steve K

    Forgotten in all of this is what I believe started the direction of these ads. Tim Cook was called in to Congress very recently to testify on Apple’s tax strategies for foreign assets. They got some bad press for that. I think this is in part a reaction to those hearings.

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  • Chris

    It’s one of the only spots that when it comes on, I tune out. It has no legs. Heavy media buy=overkill. No one I know (almost all of them Mac fans), likes this spot. Apple’s taking itself WAY too seriously right now. Loosen up, kids. It’s ok to change the world and to have fun doing it.

  • At this point Samsung has probably spend in marketing just as much as it has spent making the phones.

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  • elder Signin

    Steve, most of us that watch the congress hearings vs Apple think that Apple came away looking great and the congress members looked really stupid. Tim Cook for Congress???

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  • Matt Sharper

    Apple’s Signature ad is quiet and thoughtful, waxing philosophically about the company’s beliefs.

    utter nonsense