creative


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 →


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 →


27
Jan 14

The Mac birthday video should inspire everyone: including Apple

Apple’s new-product videos have become as famous as its devices. But not necessarily in a good way.

Let’s just say they’re a bit predictable.

You know the routine: Jony Ive and assorted Apple leaders appear on a white background, gushing over the product to someone off-camera, with occasional cutaways to beauty shots and explanatory graphics.

The format has been repeated so often, it’s become the standard for parody videos by pros and amateurs alike. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but the flattery part ran its course after the first five years.

So it was with great joy that I watched Apple’s latest product video — which is actually an old-product video.

The Mac 30th Birthday piece is all about a computer, but the story isn’t told by Apple people. We hear it from those who have used a Mac to have impact in this world — each speaking from a different perspective.

There isn’t a white background in sight. The speakers appear in their natural habitats, which are colorful and interesting. The music is really good. There’s energy in the edit. It feels honest and authentic. 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 →


30
Dec 13

Samsung: victim of its own DNA

Oh, to be an electronics behemoth.

With its infrastructure and reach, Samsung has the power to build products in infinite categories and ship billions of products worldwide.

However, there is something very wrong with one particular strand in its corporate DNA. It’s the one labeled “marketing savvy.”

Here’s a company with a number of hit products in the mobile space and an advertising budget several times that of Apple. Yet, despite a few creative moments, something deep inside keeps pulling it back to advertising mediocrity.

See Exhibit A above. This is the newly released 2.5-minute piece being deservedly slammed as one of the worst commercials ever made. 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 →


8
Oct 13

Samsung’s crime against advertising

Bad enough that Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear smartwatch is being universally panned by reviewers.

Now the product’s launch commercial is getting the same treatment. Mostly because it’s a shameless copy of the very first iPhone commercial.

No argument here about the blatant nature of this rip-off. However, my problem is a more basic one:

The ad is crap.

Rule number one when you set out to copy someone else’s work: “Do it well.” In ignoring this rule, Samsung has set itself up for the double whammy — attacked for being unoriginal and creatively anemic. Continue reading →


27
Sep 13

Of iPhones, ads and OS’s

What a juicy couple of weeks we’ve had in the iPhone world. New phones, new iOS, new ads and the inevitable flood of opinions.

What the heck, I’ll throw a few more into the mix.

iPhone 5c. I was withholding judgment until I could get my hands on one. I have to say, holding it in one’s hand is a very different experience than seeing a photo or video. Thanks to the new design, it almost feels thinner than the 5s even though it’s not. Very easy to love.

The theme lines. “Forward thinking” and “For the colorful.” I want to like them, I really do. They just feel a bit too calculated for my taste. I wholeheartedly agree that much of the 5s technology is forward thinking, especially the 64-bit part. But the line is more logical and strategic than it is seductive. I get that Apple is forward-thinking by reveling in its design and functionality. A great theme line would cap it off with a little magic. Continue reading →