observatory


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 →


8
Feb 16

Super Bowl confidential: the secret story behind Apple’s “Lemmings”

This is the day I normally offer up some reviews on the Super Bowl commercials.

This year, I suffered a bit of writer’s block. I couldn’t find a fresh way to say things like “This one was funny,” “This one was an embarrassment” and “Damn you, advertisers, for taking away the surprise by releasing ads a week before the game.”

So I’m going to sit this one out. I’ll listen to your opinions instead.

However, I will not sit idly by! In honor of the Super Bowl I’m setting the time machine back to 1985, when Apple ran its notoriously awful Lemmings commercial on that year’s Super Bowl.

Just twelve months earlier, Apple had stunned the technology and advertising worlds with its famous 1984 commercial, and Lemmings was meant to carry on the blockbuster tradition.

Instead, it was a dud of extraordinary proportions.

But what exactly is the origin of Lemmings? It’s a story that’s never been told publicly, and it’s definitely not what you think. Join me now on this journey down memory lane…
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 →


2
Dec 15

Distorting Apple news, Wall Street-style

watch-loveFollowing the first shopping weekend of the holiday season, the news for Apple was refreshingly positive.

One could even say it was surprisingly positive, given the negativity preceding about downward trending iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch sales.

The new news was that Apple was off to a record-breaking start. Not only was Apple Watch a hot item, but even the lowly iPad was showing new life.

But wait! Surely there is some gloom hiding in there somewhere.

Yesterday, I awoke to see a Fortune article by Philip Elmer-Dewitt with the click-bait-ish headline Top 12 Reasons People Gave Up On The Apple Watch. Ominous! Except that once you understand the nature of the study, it’s not ominous at all.

Elmer-Dewitt is talking about a new survey from Internet research firm Wristly. Having previously reported 97% Apple Watch satisfaction ratings, their new survey is “the first formal survey of dissatisfied customers.” 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 →


30
Oct 15

Raining on Apple’s parade

apple_headlines
I guess there really is one in every crowd.

On Tuesday, Apple released its earnings report, which contained enough gaudy numbers to satisfy just about everyone.

Just about.

Above are the stories that appeared on Yahoo’s finance page within minutes of Apple’s numbers becoming public. For investors, it was a festival of good news.

“Profit rises 31%.” “Earnings top expectations.” “All-time sales record.” And then… “Has Apple Growth Hit The Pause Button?” (Using a DoNotLink url, so feel free.)

I have to say, it’s awesome that an Appleslinger can be so quick on the draw. It pays to be fleet of foot, even if one is light of brain.

Once I got to the page, ancient memories were stirred. Yes, it’s more keen commentary from 24/7 Wall St., who once drew me in with their insightful observation that Apple Watch must be failing because Apple is running ads for it. Makes perfect sense. Continue reading →


28
Oct 15

Searching for the real Steve Jobs

real-steve
ALERT! Steve Jobs is missing.

We can’t find him in the new Steve Jobs movie.

We didn’t find him in the Ashton Kutcher Jobs movie. Or Gibney’s Man In The Machine. Or Pirates of Silicon Valley.

We didn’t find him in the one-man stage show, The Agony And Ecstasy Of Steve Jobs. Fat chance that we’ll find him in the upcoming Steve Jobs opera.

Hell, he was MIA in the biography authorized by Steve himself.

So, where is that rascal hiding? Of all the countless articles, books and movies that aim to enlighten us about Steve, why isn’t there one that gets it right?

I hope you’re sitting down for this — the real Steve Jobs story will arrive on the 12th of Never. Continue reading →


22
Oct 15

PC companies did WHAT?

A wise man in advertising once said that 99% of the world’s failed ads fail before the creative team even gets the assignment.

That’s because strategy is critical. Even great creative work can’t save a bad strategy.

But what we have here is something else.

It’s that rare combination of bad strategy compounded by bad creative, then multiplied by the combined effort of four different companies — three of whom are actually competitors.

This is nothing less than an advertising miracle. Like Halley’s Comet, I doubt that we’ll see anything like it again in our lifetime.

So hold your noses — we’re going in for a closer look. Continue reading →


19
Oct 15

Dueling monikers: 3D Touch & Force Touch

touch2We first met Force Touch when Tim Cook unveiled Apple Watch in September of last year.

Six months later, Force Touch debuted in the new Macbook, and soon after it appeared in an updated Macbook Pro.

So it only seemed logical to believe that Force Touch would appear in the new iPhones as well.

Except that it didn’t. Instead, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus arrived sporting 3D Touch.

Some were confused. Others were elated.

And just to add to the effect, last week Apple introduced the new Magic Trackpad — featuring Force Touch.

You’d be forgiven if your first reaction was, “Good grief, Apple, make up your mind!” Having two kinds of Touches seemed uncharacteristically wishy-washy, especially with all of this happening in the span of a year. Continue reading →


12
Oct 15

New Apple Watch ads: a midcourse correction

Ah, much better. Thank you Apple.

At long last, nearly six months after Apple Watch started shipping, Apple has launched a Watch campaign that might turn some heads. Or better yet, open some eyes.

The new ads are actually the polar opposite of the previous ones.

If you’re the kind, forgiving type, you might see the change as TechCrunch does:

These ads signal somewhat of a value shift in Apple’s Watch advertising as the product matures and the company looks to showcase its utility a bit more seriously.

Interesting. Where I come from, the best time to showcase a product’s utility is when it’s launched.

The simple truth is, the first Watch campaign was soft and fuzzy — long on emotion and short on lust. Way too many people reacted to those spots by saying “I still don’t get why I’d want one.”

The new campaign is not only 100x more clear—it actually gives the Watch a personality. Continue reading →