Since the dawn of time, advertisers have stretched, exaggerated and mutilated the truth to get consumers’ attention.
Hey, that’s life. It’s also why advertising is a consistent bottom-dweller in every “most respected profession” survey.
But there is hope for mankind.
Some companies have a refreshingly strong sense of advertising ethics. They believe that their products are so good, an honest portrayal is the most effective advertising tool.
Apple has always been one of those companies. That’s one reason I was so attracted to it when I was a baby copywriter.
Apple advertising was always creative and fun, but it was also intelligent and accurate. That’s what made it the industry’s “gold standard” for marketing.
That’s why it makes me nervous when I see today’s Apple playing loose with words and images to sell a product.
Case in point: the “all-screen” iPhone X.Continue reading…
We all know that Apple rose from the dead because Steve Jobs had a unique mix of talents.
He had vision, he understood human behavior, he loved design and he was a gifted conductor of a complex orchestra.
My experience with him makes me want to add one more trait to that mix. That is—he relentlessly acted on common sense.
Trust me, this is more rare than it sounds. Working with other iconic companies, I too often saw common sense take a back seat to cost, timetables and opinions. The result was always something less than our original vision.
When I look at today’s Apple, I still see the company I love. I still see products that are beautifully thought-out. I still see the love of design.
But common sense? I worry.Continue reading…
Maybe I have a bad attitude.
I’d be quite content if I never again heard the Intel “bong” at the end of every PC ad.
I’d also be terminally depressed if I had to look at a gaudy Intel Inside sticker every time I opened my MacBook.
I get that Intel Inside is one of the most successful marketing campaigns in business history. It’s just that after 36 years, that logo starts to feel more like a pollutant than an advertising device.
Thankfully, Macs have remained 100% free of Intel branding since Apple adopted its processors way back in 2006.Continue reading…
For seven years, iPhone naming has ping-ponged between numbers and S’s.
Then, last year we got the iPhone SE, with a moniker that lives outside that naming scheme.
Combining the latest product rumors with what Apple has “trained” us to expect in naming, many expect the 2017 lineup to include an iPhone 7S, iPhone 7S Plus, iPhone 8 and iPhone SE.
Clever, Apple! Your master plan is working flawlessly!
Year after year, you ingeniously fed us those bad iPhone names, knowing that we’d come expect this level of complexity. Only then could you shock the daylights out of us with a stunningly simpler set of names that actually make sense.
[We now return you to reality.]
If you’re a regular here, you know my feeling about the whole “S” thing. It’s a perfect example of a company shooting itself in the marketing foot.Continue reading…
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…
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…
Seriously — an article about legal type in advertising?
Granted, the topic may seem a bit dry. But hang with me. Those microscopic lines of text often have their own sordid backstory, filled with intrigue, deception and blatant bending of the rules.
Even Apple gets into the act.
So, where to begin? Exhibit A, above, is taken from a Rate.com commercial now running incessantly on CNN.
We can all agree it contains a boatload of legal type, and that no earthly being will ever read more than a few words of it.
This may be within the rules, but clearly it is far outside the bounds of common sense.
Which leads one to ask: what are the rules anyway? Hard to say, but every TV network does have a screening process to ensure that ads meet their standards for ethics and accuracy.
Personally, I think common sense makes an excellent standard. To be fair to marketers and consumers, legal disclaimers should pass three tests.
Rate.com grossly and obscenely violates two out of three. (Kudos for the honesty!)Continue reading…
Every election year, I am re-amazed by one of the more amazing things I learned in my advertising life.
That is, there is one set of rules for consumer ads and no set of rules for political ads.
Want to run a TV ad for your toilet cleanser? It will have to be cleared by the network’s “ethics and standards” group. No false or misleading claims allowed about your product or your competitor’s.
Want to run a TV commercial for your political candidate? No lawmen here, so have at it. Lies, half-truths and conspiracy theories are welcome.
While the networks act as a watchdog for consumer advertising, the Federal Trade Commission actually brings action against violators. They have a nice little set of punishments, including cease-and-desist orders, fines, frozen assets and compensation for those affected by fraud.
On their website, the FTC says,“The FTC looks especially closely at advertising claims that can affect consumers’ health or their pocketbooks.”
Hmm. It’s not like a presidential candidate can affect our health or pocketbook, right?Continue reading…