18
Jul 14

The relentless (and annoying) pursuit of eyeballs

As a longtime ad guy, I now confess:

I have a love-hate relationship with the products of my own profession.

I love ads that draw me in with intelligence and wit.

I hate ads that barge into my life uninvited.

When I was a wide-eyed junior copywriter, I came to appreciate the code of ethics that guided the high-quality ad agencies.

I was taught that since people don’t actively seek out ads, we had to be respectful of our audience and capture their attention through creativity. It was our job to attract customers, not brow-beat them.

In other words, we tried not to annoy people when our goal was to start a conversation with them.

Honestly, it didn’t feel like a code of ethics. It just felt like common sense. More ▸


03
Jul 14

Analyzing Apple ads to death

Who’s the villain? Apple, its agency … or the company that’s scoring them?

 

Oh look. The latest ads from Apple — the ones created by Apple itself — haven’t scored as well as those created previously by its longtime agency.

I know it’s true, because I read it on the Internet.

These news stories are all based on a single report from Ace Metrix, which bills itself as “the new standard in television and video analytics.”

Please, say it ain’t so.

First, be aware that what appears to be a news story is actually a marketing pitch. It’s the same technique used by assorted computer security companies to drum up new business, which we’ve seen many times before.

They release a report with a sensational headline (New Virus Blows Up Mac Security Myth!), watch the news organizations eat it up, then happily field inquiries from clients impressed with their skills.

Ace Metrix sells marketing analytics software and competitive comparisons. Their findings generate stories, which at the same time generate PR for Ace. An excellent way to build “the new standard” in analytics.

But what exactly is the “Ace Score” of which they speak? If you have the stomach, read on. More ▸


23
Jun 14

Shooting blanks at Apple

I love the smell of exaggeration in the morning. (Illustration: Fortune.)

With a rising stock price, cheery forecasts from major analysts and growing anticipation for iPhone 6 and iWatch, it’s getting harder and harder to write negative articles about Apple’s prospects.

But, naturally, some people do.

Surprisingly, it was Adam Lashinsky who recently rose to the challenge with his article for Fortune entitled Apple’s newest product: Complexity.

Compelling headline. Compelling visual. The only thing it lacks is a compelling argument.

In fact, it’s an excellent example of how even the smarter Apple journalists can be seduced by the lure of Apple doom-casting. More ▸


18
Jun 14

Apple’s marketing rethink: not exactly a surprise

We all know that things are different in the post-Steve Apple.

However, there’s something about the current move to build an in-house marketing agency that’s really, really different.

Unlike previous changes, this one isn’t driven by Tim Cook.

It comes from a new place, deeper inside the company — from those who long played a part in Steve Jobs’ marketing machine.

The industry and the press seem to be surprised by this development. To many others, it’s a wonder it didn’t happen sooner.

A little background to start with…

THE BENEVOLENT DICTATOR

Though Steve encouraged debate, his dictator side made it clear that some things were not debatable. One of those things was the way Apple handled its marketing.

He set up two distinct areas of responsibility. More ▸


02
Jun 14

Apple journalism as entertainment

Apple’s rock-solid sales threatened by Android’s slowing sales!(Reality Distortion Field courtesy of Business Insider)

In times gone by, I’d get a kick out of watching any local band play live.

If they were good, I loved it. If they were bad, well — I also loved it. It was strangely entertaining to watch a group try so hard and sound so terrible.

In much the same way, I got a kick out of a Business Insider article over the weekend with the catchy headline The iPhone 6 Had Better Be Amazing And Cheap, Because Apple Is Losing The War To Android.

I hope you enjoy bad bands too.

Kudos to the Business Insider editor, who, in the site’s well-established tradition, has molded a headline that’s simultaneously brain-dead and inflammatory.

Singing lead is writer Jim Edwards. Do watch closely, because Jim is the guy who will give you the most bang for your entertainment buck.

A few bits of his insight and logic: More ▸


22
May 14

The online Apple Store’s humble beginnings

The latest numbers show that in 2013, Apple rose to #2 in online retail, second only to Amazon.

Not all that amazing, given that iTunes and App Store sales are now included in Apple’s figures.

But, given the humble beginnings of the Apple Store, it does give me that “how far we’ve come” feeling.

It all started with a baby step back in the “Think different” years, even before the first iMac appeared.

In those days, Apple made its big announcements with multipage inserts in magazines like Time and Newsweek. Apple creating an online store was indeed big news — though not quite big enough to merit its own insert.

The piece you see here was titled “Think different. Really different.” Within its pages, Apple announced three bits of news: More ▸


06
May 14

iWatch: Apple’s next naming drama?

Of all the product names in Apple history, by far the least surprising was iPhone.

After iMac, iPhoto, iMovie, iPod and iTunes, Apple had well established its i-rhythm. And the fact that Apple was feverishly working on a phone was one of its worst-kept secrets. For many months leading up to the device’s unveiling, the press was consumed with speculation about what an “iPhone” would be.

Behind the scenes, Steve Jobs was unwavering in his desire to call it iPhone. The fact that it fit well with other i-names was only part of it. In this case, he thought it was important for the name to instantly communicate the category to be disrupted.

Just one flaw in Steve’s plan: Cisco reportedly owned the name. It was already shipping a product called iPhone, though I’ve yet to meet or even hear of anyone who has ever seen one. It was a phone that made phone calls over the Internet, hooking into one’s home network. More ▸


21
Apr 14

John Sculley apologizes again—but shouldn’t

John Sculley isn’t exactly a favorite amongst Apple fans. He will forever be the man who sent Steve Jobs into exile.

Given the astronomical success of Apple following Steve’s return in 1997, it’s understandable why Sculley would say it was a “mistake” to send Steve packing. He’s said it before and he just said it again.

Get over it, John.

You may have blundered through that particular period of time, but in a weird way you can actually take credit for Apple’s — and Steve Jobs’ — great success.

Because of you, a young, passionate and inexperienced Steve matured in a way he wouldn’t have otherwise.

Being cast out of Apple was what forced Steve to reassess his life. It was during those years of exile that he matured, learning the skills he was lacking in 1985. More ▸


14
Apr 14

CNN meets Captain Obvious

CNN isn’t in the comedy business. At least not purposefully.

But I have to say, yesterday’s CNN home page headline did make me laugh.

After all this coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner, with pretty much every story in the last four weeks centered on the need to find the black boxes, CNN posted a big, bold headline:

Official: Black boxes crucial to solving mystery

With insightful reporting like this, CNN should be back on the top of the ratings in no time.

[Update 4/16/14]

Big thanks to Sorin for contributing the following photo. Apparently CNN’s headline writer moonlights in the captioning dept.


08
Apr 14

Apple’s little advertising crisis

Phil – and his email – get their day in court

Corporate legal dramas often serve as a reminder to one of the new cardinal rules of business:

Watch what you say in email.

I suspect there are a few people at Apple and its ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day who wish they could take their messages back, now that Samsung’s lawyers have introduced them as evidence.

One email from Phil Schiller to Tim Cook says that Apple “may need to start a search for a new agency … we are not getting what we need from [Chiat] and haven’t been for a while.”

Tim’s reply: “If we need to do this, we should get going.”

Yikes.

This all happened in 2013, so who knows if it’s blown over by now. But given Steve Jobs’ long-running relationship with Chiat, this potentially represents a huge break from the past.

A little perspective is in order. More ▸