steve jobs


6
Apr 17

Refreshing the brand, extreme edition

As an ad guy, I’ve had the fun of developing brand campaigns for many major companies.

Trust me, there is no standard process.

However, it’s safe to say that the first task is for all parties to agree on what the brand stands for. In theory, this should be easy, yet many of the biggest companies find it perplexing.

(See my story about Microsoft’s internal brand struggles three years ago.)

The who-are-we debate can rage for weeks or months before creative work can actually begin.

I had night-and-day experiences developing brand campaigns for Dell and Apple. At Dell, the strategy phase went on for months without reaching a decision. The process became so arduous, the process simply sputtered to a halt. Continue reading →


9
Mar 17

The frustrated Steve Jobs

Like many, I have a habit of idealizing the “good old days” with Steve Jobs.

Keep in mind that I’m an ad guy. It’s incredibly rare that people like me get to work directly with the CEO, and even more rare that the CEO is so passionate about doing great work.

So when I look back, I tend to romanticize even the difficult times, even though I know darn well that the tense moments were … well, tense. Especially with Steve.

Need an example?

Return with me now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, as the color iMacs were about to be unveiled.

On this particular day, Steve had apparently been on a call with a guy named Wayne (I have no memory of him), and Wayne was having a problem finalizing photography to be used in Steve’s upcoming Macworld presentation.

Since I was responsible for the creative work at the ad agency, Steve tried to solve this problem in real-time by adding me to the call — but got my answering machine instead. No doubt this ticked him off even more.

When I got home that day, I got a classic Steve message. What I love about it is that it started so calmly, then steadily escalated into a fury. I didn’t save the recording, but at least I had the foresight to transcribe it. Continue reading →


3
Feb 17

The making of Apple’s HAL

I used to devote hours to feverishly writing up my annual Super Bowl ad review. And then, one day, the thrill was gone.

Between the lack of surprise (so many spots are released early now) and the general mediocrity, it became more chore than fun.

That said, I refuse to lose my Big Game spirit. So — how about a little story from Apple’s Super Bowl past?

What follows is the tale of HAL: Apple’s 1999 Super Bowl commercial starring the malevolent computer from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

HAL became Apple’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1985, when the ill-conceived Lemmings commercial ran. That, as you know, was the follow-up to the previous year’s amazing 1984 commercial — arguably the greatest commercial of all time.

Read on if you’re interested in learning how ads were often born in Steve Jobs’s Apple. The process was not at all like what you find in most big companies today (including Apple). Continue reading →


9
Dec 16

Apple: earning the wrath of Steve

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You’ve been working on this HOW long?

Steve Jobs didn’t judge people solely on the quality of their work. He also put a high value on time — and wasting time was an unforgivable sin.

I saw this more than once in our regular marketing meetings. Someone would confidently present their ideas, Steve would ponder for a moment, and then let it out: “That’s it? You could have done this one day after our last meeting. What have you been doing for the past two weeks?”

It would then fall upon the offending party to put up their best defense. I don’t remember that ever working.

Of course, it was entirely possible that this person had been slaving away every day, at great personal sacrifice. But if the work didn’t show time well spent, Steve’s fury was unleashed.

Fast forward to Apple’s recent product unveiling. Continue reading →


30
Nov 16

Apple ad blitz: four hits and a cringe

mostIs it my imagination, or has Apple been unusually active in the ad department lately?

Taken together, the company’s latest spots offer some hope for its advertising future — and then a warning as well.

Here are the ads, with a few observations to go with them.

 

 

Holiday spot: Frankie’s Holiday

There is no shortage of broadcast ads during the holidays. Or, I should say, there is no shortage of ads begging us to spend our holiday money, often in the most ungraceful ways.

It’s because of this advertising glut that we can better appreciate companies that avoid the hard sell and make the effort to add a little magic to the holidays. Continue reading →


25
Oct 16

The beautifully annoying Siri Remote

puck-remote2

This is an article one year in the making.

It’s not that I’m such a slow writer. (Well, maybe a little of that.) It’s because I’ve been patient and forgiving. I’ve tried to adapt, learn new tricks and think positive. But at some point I have to face the fact—

I will never love the Siri Remote for Apple TV.

In fact, I think it’s earned a place in the Apple Hall of Infamy, right alongside one of the company’s classic aberrations: the hockey puck mouse that shipped with the original iMac. Continue reading →


6
Jun 16

Has Apple lost its simplicity?

Last week, I wrote an article for The Guardian with the above title. It was a question, not a conclusion, and I tried to offer a thoughtful opinion. Sadly, The Guardian chose to give it a click-bait headline that contradicted my point of view. So, for the record, here is the complete article as originally intended.

 Four years ago, I wrote a book about Apple and the power of simplicity.

It was the result of my observation, having worked with Steve Jobs as his ad agency creative director in the Think different years, that Apple’s stellar growth was rooted in Steve’s love of simplicity.

This love—you might call it obsession—could be seen in Apple’s hardware, software, packaging, marketing, retail store design, even the company’s internal organization.

apple-ii-simplicity

Even back in the 70s, Apple was professing its love for simplicity

But that was four years ago.

Though Apple’s customers remain fiercely loyal, the natives are getting restless. A growing number of people are sensing that Tim Cook’s Apple isn’t as simple as Steve Jobs’s Apple. They see complexity in expanding product lines, confusing product names, and the products themselves.

Is this just perception, or is it reality? Has Apple developed a problem with simplicity? Or is it simply maturing as one should expect from a global company?

It’s difficult to be objective because Apple has become the world’s most overanalyzed company. It’s created passionate fans and passionate detractors.

Maybe I can help. My experience with Steve Jobs has led me to admire Apple—but I also believe in tough love. This is a good time to put emotions aside and take a cold, hard look at Apple’s current “state of simplicity.” Continue reading →


1
Apr 16

Of Steve Jobs and Andy Grove

grove-jobsLast week we lost another pioneer of technology with the passing of Andy Grove.

I can’t say I knew Andy well. I can only speak of him anecdotally, as I was part of his ad agency creative team for four years-plus in the early 2000s.

At that time, Andy was more of a spiritual adviser than a day-to-day leader. He was chairman, and Craig Barrett was CEO. Together, the two would sit in judgment at our creative presentations.

I was a bit star-struck when I first met Andy. Though I was always a Mac person (yes, even when I was making Intel ads), it was hard to look at Andy without marveling at the industry he helped spawn.

I had come to this job directly from my time at Apple’s agency in the Think different days, and I was in shock over how differently the two companies worked. Continue reading →


31
Dec 15

The great Apple advertising experiment

experiment-timRecently, Apple hired Tor Myhren as VP of Marketing Communications.

He comes from Grey, where he was the global chief creative officer and president of the NY office.

To borrow some new Star Wars terminology, he’s a big deal in advertising.

On the surface, Tor’s hiring is what it is. But if you look a bit deeper, there are all sorts of juicy implications.

To better appreciate, one must first understand how Apple’s marketing has worked in the past, Steve Jobs-style.

Steve kept things simple. Basically, he trusted the right people to do the right job. He had the ad agency (called TBWA\Chiat\Day in 1997, becoming Media Arts Lab later) and his in-house creative group. The two had separate and distinct responsibilities.

The agency developed the big ad campaigns and the in-house group owned apple.com, product packaging and themes/signage for the retail Apple Stores. Continue reading →


6
Nov 15

Bidding adieu to Steve Jobs, the movie

stevejobs2
Uh oh. Two weeks into its general release, Universal’s Steve Jobs movie has faded fast.

In what might be the ultimate insult, it has only barely outperformed the Ashton Kutcher Jobs movie.

Quite an unexpected end for a movie that had everything going for it: writing, acting, directing, marketing budget and lots of great reviews in the mainstream media.

Where did things go wrong?

Well, as much as we admire Steve Jobs, his vision and his accomplishments, there is such a thing as a Steve Jobs overdose. Continue reading →