advertising


8
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. Continue reading →


21
Mar 14

One of Steve Jobs’ greatest talents: caring

Before iPhone, there was another tool Steve Jobs used to great effect.

It’s always fun to read stories about people’s chance encounters with Steve Jobs.

A recent one came from an anonymous person who “had a friend” who had such an encounter.

Okay, it does sound a bit suspicious. We all know there’s a lot of fantasy out there. However, I find this story to be perfectly plausible — mainly because it’s quite consistent with the everyday Steve behavior I witnessed myself.

As this story goes, the “friend” — who worked for a talent agency — hung up on Steve Jobs twice because he thought he was being pranked. But in fact it was Steve, calling to force a change in Justin Long’s schedule so he could shoot some new Mac vs. PC ads.

That simple phone call (or several calls, in this case) illuminates a side of Steve that most people don’t think about. That is: he cared. Continue reading →


6
Mar 14

Microsoft vs. Apple: the strategy gap

Microsoft’s newly minted Chief Strategy Officer, Mark Penn

Most people judge ads by what they see. Good ad, bad ad, end of story.

Of course, it’s a little deeper than that.

As is often pointed out around these parts, there’s a little thing called “strategy” — which is hashed out before creative teams start creating.

Historically, Apple has been very smart about strategy, while Microsoft has been very … shall we say … un-smart.

Now that Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella has appointed Mark Penn to the position of Chief Strategy Officer, it’s a whole new ballgame, right?

Not so fast.

From what we know of Mark Penn, the gap between the quality of strategy at Apple and Microsoft isn’t about to shrink.

For starters, Penn has actually been Microsoft’s Executive VP, Advertising and Strategy, since mid-2012. He’s the architect of the company’s tasteless, cutesy and much-maligned “Don’t Get Scroogled” campaign. Continue reading →


18
Feb 14

Apple’s adventures in plastic

Many Apple-bashers find it easy to explain the company’s historic success: “it’s just marketing.”

To them, Apple products are overpriced and uninventive, but damn, those guys sure know how to sell.

Fortunately, from time to time Apple proves this theory to be as brain-dead as it sounds. It launches a product with a major ad campaign — and it’s not a hit.

Case in point: iPhone 5c.

Marketing has always played a big role in Apple’s successes, but — for any company — it all starts with a great product. Advertising can add momentum and generate buzz, but it can’t turn a bad product into a sensation.

So what’s happened with iPhone 5c? Now that we’ve lived with it long enough, we can probably draw a few conclusions. Continue reading →


3
Feb 14

2014 Ad Bowl: a festival of “meh”

If you were expecting to be disappointed with this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads, well … you weren’t disappointed.

At this point, the excitement of Super Bowl advertising is more memory than reality. Could it be that more advertisers are being safer now that the cost of these ads has skyrocketed to $8 million per minute?

Whatever the reason, this Super Bowl didn’t produce many memorable moments — on or off the field.

The formula ads were more visible than ever. When advertisers play to a massive audience like this, we get an overdose of patriotism, kids, animals and celebrities.

However, one of my biggest Super Bowl disappointments came prior to Super Sunday. In the never-ending quest to create more buzz, many companies are now revealing their ads a whole week before the game. This year, I counted twenty of them.

These advertisers have taken away what used to be one of the most fun things about watching the Super Bowl — finding surprises in every commercial break. It’s like reading spoilers before you see a movie. Continue reading →


23
Jan 14

Apple takes the lofty route for iPad

There are a thousand ways Apple could have gone in creating a new iPad campaign.

Humor? Nope. Intelligent wit? Uh-uh. Technology superiority? No thanks. Philosophy? Bingo!

With the 90-second Verses commercial above (now officially a campaign with two new 30-second cut-downs, Light Verse and Sound Verse), Apple is taking the high road. We get the 1989 Robin Williams quoting Walt Whitman from Dead Poets Society.

Though the spot seemed unexpected for many, Apple has been making noises in this direction for some time now. Continue reading →


13
Jan 14

Technology, religion, fanboys and Walt

Touchy, touchy.

Seems like former Wall Street Journal technology reviewer Walt Mossberg isn’t in the mood for aggressive comments these days.

In his first article at re/code, he “schools” those who are intolerant of others’ opinions and exhibit religious devotion to their chosen platform.

While Walt tries to be objective, two subtle clues hint at the source of his frustration.

One is the headline: It’s Not a Church, It’s Just an Apple Store. The other is his main visual: New York’s iconic Apple Store Fifth Avenue.

I don’t really mind that Walt makes Apple fans the poster children for his article. You have to get those clicks somehow.

Didn’t we cover this Apple-as-religion thing years ago at Scoopertino? (click to see)

And it’s not like this is anything new. Badly-mannered zealots have been among us, on every platform, for decades — just as they have been in politics. It’s actually more of a human thing than a technology thing.

What’s out of whack for me is Walt’s very first paragraph. For a guy whose life revolves around technology, he expresses a surprisingly cynical view of technology companies: Continue reading →


20
Dec 13

Apple thinks different for Christmas

There’s a comforting predictability to the holidays. Decorations go up and the shopping countdown begins.

There’s a predictability to the holiday ads as well — most of which scream big sales and hot products.

What we don’t expect to see is an advertiser taking a risk. Which is why I find Apple’s 2013 holiday spot so interesting.

Ever see a company spend nearly half of its holiday commercial depicting the downside of its own product?

Apple has done just that — painting the picture of a kid seemingly more interested in the virtual world of his iPhone than the family around him. Continue reading →


5
Dec 13

JCPenney: forward to the past!

JCP has apparently taken down links to this spot. Click here to view on iSpot.tv.

Recently, I saw the above ad for JCPenney — the launch of its big new holiday campaign. Just days later, I saw an article entitled JCPenny On An Express Train To Oblivion.

That headline pretty well summed up my reaction to the commercial. It also got me thinking about JCP’s current course in context of its history.

So, for you marketing enthusiasts, here’s my JCP story. It’s loaded with the things we love about this business: drama, crushed dreams, out-of-control egos and unintentional comedy. Continue reading →


21
Oct 13

iPhone 5s ad: Apple goes for the gold

Ah, relief. After a number of commercials all dedicated to the iPhone 5c, we finally have one for the iPhone 5s.

Some sites, such as The Verge, suggest that this shift might reflect reports that the iPhone 5c is not selling well and the iPhone 5s is a runaway hit.

However, that doesn’t exactly pass the common sense test.

If one of your two products needs a jumpstart, you beef up the advertising for it — not shift to a product you can’t keep in stock. I suspect the reason is much simpler: Apple has a new line of iPhones and wants to sell a bunch of them.

But forget marketing theory for the moment. What do we think of the ad?

Well, if you’re of the mind that Apple has become formulaic with its ads, there’s nothing here to dissuade you. Even by its title, iPhone 5s’s Metal Mastered (above) is a perfect replica of iPhone 5c’s Plastic Perfected. Continue reading →