• Reviewing the Reviewers of Apple’s New Ads

    May 5th, 2006

    I don’t know how often I’ve wondered why Apple isn’t pushing Macs these days, but now it seems those ads are all over the place. Apple has made some heavy-duty media buys, and you see the “Get a Mac” commercials on many of your favorite shows. That is, if you haven’t sped past them on your TiVo (feel free to replace that with whatever DVR you use).

    In fact, if I hadn’t discovered the spots at Apple’s site, I probably would have ignored most of them, but I was delighted at the discovery. At last, even if done in a typically soft-sell fashion, Apple was trying to take advantage of Microsoft’s ongoing problems delivering a new operating system.

    Each of the six ads, and the accompanying promotional blurbs posted online, are focused on different areas of Mac versus PC matters, such as the relative freedom from viruses that I talked about yesterday. One spot affords The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg his fifteen minutes of fame, touting his review of the iMac. Another focuses on iLife, available on the Mac and not the PC. Stability, networking and ease of connections form the basis of other ads.

    Now it didn’t take long for tech commentators, Mac-oriented and otherwise, to express their views about the new campaign. The typical no-frills production values, the fast cuts and all the rest are praised, but questions are raised, as you might expect. Is it fair, for example, to portray the PC as a nerdy middle-aged man clothed in an ill-fitting suit? What about the real-life nerds who might identify with this individual who labor in the accounting and IT departments around the world? Do nerds have cause to be upset? Maybe they should stage a rally at One Infinite Loop, or file class action lawsuits.

    Can you just see it now: Apple faces protests from the nerds of the world who feel offended by its new ad campaign. Maybe I shouldn’t say such things, for a few legal firms might be readying the legal papers right now. Why did I have to give them any bright ideas?

    And what of the image portrayed for the Mac, the cool dude who might benefit from closer acquaintance with his razor? Does it have to be a male? What about a cool female for a change of pace? Why not use more fashionable attire? What’s more, is Apple being sexist by assuming the Mac must be a man? Do they expect you to identify with these individuals, or is Apple strictly playing to a young, hip crowd or those who might aspire to be categorized in that fashion?

    But forgetting the details, a lot of attention is being focused on whether the ads will do any good? Sure, Mac sales are on the rise these days, and the transition to Intel processors appears to be moving along pretty well, although there were apparently some early production bumps for the MacBook Pro. With Microsoft still apparently struggling to figure out what excuse to deliver next should Windows Vista be further delayed, the path is open for Apple to gain even more traction.

    The problem in all this is that the tech writers who think they are capable of judging the impact of these spots are probably the ones least capable of making such calls. They are not Apple’s target audience, and I don’t pretend to be either. Frankly I rarely spend must time watching TV commercials. Much of my TV viewing is done using my local cable provider’s DVR, so I just fast forward through the ads, and seldom stop to focus on any particular ad, and I’ve become good at proper timing, so I don’t overshoot the actual show. Well, at least not too often.

    My wife, upon seeing the ads, simply remarked “Isn’t that cute?” and simply went about her business. Our young, hip son, who also doesn’t use a razor very often, rarely watches commercial TV for any length of time.

    Analyzing every frame isn’t going to yield any meaningful results either. You see, the only successful ad campaign is the one that brings customers into the stores and encourages them to buy your product. That’s the beginning and end of it, and when the analyzing stops, only the sales figures will matter.

    If Apple doesn’t sell more Macs, the campaign will be regarded as a failure. Either way, they’ll keep the facts and figures to their vests and you’ll only get meaningful comments about it at Apple’s next quarterly session with financial analysts. If the ads produced good business, you’ll hear about it. If not, there will be a few lame excuses, or perhaps a refusal to comment about the matter. You’ll also see the ads disappear from the airwaves, and none of the tech analyses with pro or con views will matter.

    You see, it’s still all about the money.

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