22
Aug 14

Some curious Apple lapses

What’s wrong with this picture?

Those who love Apple are oftentimes its most finicky critics.

My theory is that these people expect perfection, so they feel compelled to point out the imperfections — large or small.

Oh, wow. I guess I’m now officially in that group.

Recently, I’ve noticed two lapses that seem out of character for Apple. Each is mystifying in its own way. More ▸


15
Aug 14

Microsoft’s new ads: beating a dead horse

Hail Microsoft, the King of PCs.

It’s easy to understand why the company clings to its “PCs forever” strategy, even after every major Windows PC maker has suffered slumping sales due to the tablet revolution.

It’s actually a form of corporate addiction. When you’ve built a huge global powerhouse based on one strategy, it’s hard to stop.

When trouble brews, the reaction can be reflexive: “let’s go with our strength.”

So now, in its three new ads for the Surface tablet, Microsoft once again goes with its “strength.”

While it previously fell short by comparing Surface to the iPad, it tries again by comparing Surface to the MacBook Air.

Because, as we all know, what the world really wants is a tablet that feels like a PC. Complete with keyboard and Office software. More ▸


08
Aug 14

The Apple rainbow logo rides again

In case you missed it — a frame from the end of the “Stickers” ad

 

I have to say, I’m a bit surprised.

Given all the sites that regularly dissect Apple’s every move — major, minor, real or imagined — an earthquake in the Apple world has gone virtually unnoticed.

That ancient rainbow logo, last seen in mainstream advertising at least 13 years ago, has magically reappeared for yet another moment in the sun.

Well, maybe it’s more of a moment in the shade, as it does go by rather quickly. In fact, my informal unscientific poll shows that most ordinary viewers didn’t even notice it.

It comes at the end of the Stickers commercial, when the sign-off logo flickers between the contemporary black logo and the old rainbow logo.

Of course I am greatly exaggerating the importance of this unexpected-but-sweet little touch. But if you’re a student of Apple advertising, or just a casual fan, it’s a cool thing to note.

More ▸


24
Jul 14

Apple & Samsung: different takes on interim ads

In the last week, we’ve seen new commercials from both Apple and Samsung.

They’re for different product categories — laptop and phone — but they do have something in common. Both promote products that have been out for some time and have no new features to boast.

With MacBook Air, Apple is in a pretty comfortable place. The ultra-light notebook category isn’t nearly as combustible as the phone category, and MacBook Air isn’t particularly threatened. Sales are better than ever.

With the Galaxy S5, Samsung finds itself in a tougher spot. Decreasing sales have already let some air out of the Samsung balloon. Apple is on the rise again, and 95% of the buzz these days is about the looming iPhone 6.

With all that in mind, let’s look at how Apple and Samsung are stating their cases.

Stickers is a great example of a well-crafted, lovable ad that scores points despite a lack of any real news. More ▸


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 ▸