Apple’s Ad Campaign: I Didn’t Know a Mac Could Do That!

June 20th, 2006

You’d think with Apple paying millions and millions of dollars to buy time on top-rated TV shows for its “Get a Mac” campaign, people would be listening. And not just Mac users and tech pundits debating the plusses and minuses of the new campaign. But maybe the word isn’t getting out quite as much as Apple hopes.

Now I can’t say that I have conducted any meaningful surveys. I have, however, talked to a few people, at random, just to gauge the reaction.

The other day, for example, I was completing a bank transaction when I began to chat with a customer support person who just happened to be a vice president for the bank’s holding company. Somehow the discussion gravitated to personal computers, but it wasn’t deliberate. I happened to mention my two radio shows when she inquired as to my line of work.

I wondered if she’d like to listen to what I do, since I was a long-time customer at that particular branch. She said she’d like to, but she had problems working with her home PC, because of all the security blocks. No, she didn’t use financial software on that computer; she just managed some email and Internet access. Yet even the simplest functions caused her to hit a wall, because her husband had put in so many security protections that she didn’t feel inclined to want to try new things.

This naturally took me to the inevitable question of whether she had ever considered a Mac. The response was one of confusion; the thought never occurred to her. She just assumed that her PC experience was typical of the breed. At the bank, they used Windows 2000, with a single dedicated transaction program, so she never had to observe the nooks and crannies of the operating system. If something went wrong, there was always a convenient IT person to help set things right.

Well, I’m really not the evangelist type, just a commentator, but I did feel she ought to be able to enjoy using a home PC, not look at the task with dread. So I just mentioned, casually, that while Windows had over 114,000 viruses, the Mac OS only had a few dozen and they were nearly non-existent in recent years. Her ears seemed to perk up as she listened intently to my brief spiel. Ever mindful of the fact that people who work at banks aren’t always among the top earners in a community, I casually mentioned that the $599 Mac mini could use her existing monitor, keyboard and mouse, just like the Dell gear she had at her office.

“There is little to fear from a personal computer if you get the right one,” I concluded.

In a larger sense, her reaction was typical of the Windows users I’ve talked to in recent weeks. They are intelligent, well-informed and all, but they don’t have a handle on the issues you and I discuss day in and day out. No, I’m not so egotistical as to think that this particular site has a large Windows readership, although my paranormal radio show, The Paracast, does reach a higher percentage of so-called “Dark Side” users. That simply reflects the nature of the general population of computer owners.

Understand there is no perfect ad campaign. Some folks say that the PC nerd in Apple’s new campaign may actually be more appealing as an actor than the self-confident and possibly self-centered dude playing the Mac. Do you really aspire to become the latter, or do you feel like a regular person just trying to cope with the trials and tribulations of daily living as much as you can? Whom do you identify with, really?

Guys, do you wish you were 25 again, wearing hip clothing, sporting a two-day-old beard and a cocksure attitude? Were you ever that way, or did it represent the sort of behavior that you found objectionable?

I’m sure these issues were debated by Apple and its ad agency as they dreamed up this campaign. But the proof is in the pudding, and if traffic increases at Apple’s site and retail outlets, and the sales show a corresponding improvement, it won’t matter. Artistic considerations aside, that’s the true measure of the success of a TV commercial.

But maybe if more people such as that bank vice president could be reached, sales of new Macs might really begin to soar. Consider the possibilities.

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11 Responses to “Apple’s Ad Campaign: I Didn’t Know a Mac Could Do That!”

  1. woz says:

    I convinced 3 people to switch just last year. They always say “but I work with Windows all day at the office, why should I use a mac at home?!” My reply is always the same: “Well, do you ENJOY working under Windows?

    Fact is, they don’t. Thy’re afraid to browse the internet, afraid to open email attachements (even from relatives) and afraid to listen to music-CD’s (ever since the Sony-rootkit-affair).

  2. GuyLorach says:

    When I got my Mac, it was never because of the commercials. Besides reading technical reviews, getting hands on the OS and experience it is what made me get one. Mac evangelism can work (one person telling another about a Mac). However, I found that so many Mac users I had encountered in the past would only insult people. And some were really misinformed. I found that most of the “switch” and “Get a Mac” commercials are doing the same and did not give a postive experience (unless you’re already a Mac user).

    The PC user knows their own experiences, you don’t have to tell them about bad PC experiences. That’s the weakness of these commercials. It’s seems to target really dumb people. It assumes you’ve had these problems and that you’re PC is actually infected with viruses and crashing all the time (which the PC user knows isnt totally true). There are a lot of smart PC users out there who never have these problems. So the commercial means nothing to them. They would probably get a Mac if you just showed them one. This is something the commercials don’t do.

    For the PC readers out there, what are you waiting for? Go to your local Apple store and check out the Mac. And also check out the support forums. You’ll find a lot of interesting Mac issues that clearly show the Mac experience isnt always as perfect as the commercials make it seem to be.

  3. setomi says:

    Guy is right. I’m also really turned off by the commercials and by much of the Mac “evangelists” I came across. This one guy kept telling me how inferior PCs are (we won’t get into the details here). Insulting potential customers won’t increase sales for Apple.

    Interesting note: Although there is an iPod versus everybody else war going on, the iPod commercials have a very positive experience. It doesnt compare iPods with any other player. Look how well it’s doing. It just shows the iPod and people having fun using it. This is a much better, positive experience.

  4. brent lee says:

    Another great article Gene! 🙂

  5. Duane says:

    Yes, Guy is right about some things. But bear in mind that while there are definitely a lot of smart PC users out there (just as there are a lot of dum Mac users), the fact of the matter is that the majority of PC users are working with PCs by default rather than by a process of analysis. Given that situation, it makes sense in a broadcasted commercial to point out the relative benefits of using a Mac.

  6. Aaron says:

    I personally prefer using positive comments and showing/telling the Mac’s abilities and yes there are many example: Firewire disk mode … told a buddy about this function he Flipped! He had no idea Mac’s could do that sort of thing… and now he feels he want’s to switch from Windows to Mac!

    Showing some one what the Mac Can DO is way better than tell them there Window problems that they already know about!

    Positive Karma beats a punch in the head any time!

  7. Pecos Bill says:

    I don’t think the commercials are putting down PC users, but the Mac guy does seem to have a slight smugness. Apple’s Switch campaign a while ago didn’t target PC problems that I recall, and it didn’t garner nearly the interest in switchers that this one seems to be doing. The iPod halo effect may be partly helping. I totally agree that phrasing comparisons to not put down PC/Win stuff is important to gaining a switcher, no matter how much we hate using Windows — if forced at work.

    Apple DOES need to tout its advantages where possible.

  8. jbelkin says:

    I’m not saying this is typical but contrary to some comments above, I helped two PC users in the last couple years – one had like 57,000 reported spyware and “problems” that needed to be cleaned – now, I cannot verify if that was correct but that’s why the spyware app claimed and cleaned. The machine did run better and there were no 7 search bars all collecting more spyware info.

    The other PC was better slightly – if you closed IE, about 50 windows would pop up … so to say all Pc know what they are doing and have clean machines now are not entirely correct.

    I think it’s very telling that that one place plugged in an unprotected Pc and within 4 minutes had some probing … while the mac ships with protection on so it’s exactly a false basis to build from …

    Apple is in a tough spot – how do you say all those things without coming out and saying them and boring people. On the virus one, notice the mac does not say he’ll be “germ free forever” just that 114,000 attacked the PC “but not the Mac.” It’s implied but not stated – vastly different … and really, most ads are all a little smug – look at car ads – they basically promise you a new lifestyle, babes and color in a monochrome world … what car have you bought that actually delivers that?

    No, the problem with most computer ads is they promise the moon LITERALLY like the MS ads, Microsoft will help your kid reach the moon but the reality is that most people cannot get the damn alarm clock to ring or print to that HP printer, not the one 400 steps away so 99.95% of computer ads are really like 1-900 dating ads – um, yea, right.

    And of course, 80% of store clerks at most retailers have no idea what they are saying even if they are Pc users selling Pc’s … graphics card? um, yea, let’s read the little shelf tag together … fortunately now people can visit an Apple store and get a much better information …

    Look, the Mac is not the 100% perfect experience for 100% of the people 100% of the time but it’s so much better – but if someone has been eating margarine all their life, how do you convince them butter really tastes so much freakin’ better?

  9. I was raised as a Baha’i, which is a new-agey middle-eastern religion, split from Islam in Persia (now Iran) in the 1840s, and I grew up in Nevada, surrounded by Mormons, with LDS and Jehovah’s Witness missionaries constantly at our door.

    By contrast, Baha’is have a no-evangelizing policy. If someone asks about your religion, you can tell them all about it, and answer their questions and point them to the source material, but you don’t go out and try to force your ideas on someone. You’re supposed to live your life as an example, and people around you will eventually wonder “why is that guy such a freaking ray of sunshine all the time?” 🙂

    For years, I felt the Mac religious fervor. I went out of my way to tell people about Macs. I felt like I needed to save them from themselves and their own ignorance.

    However, in the last 6 or 8 years, I’ve calmed down and become more “Baha’i” and less “Mormon” about the whole thing. I’m known as a computer guy among my family and friends, and if people ask my opinion, I give it. I’ve had family and friends ask for advice, and once it was obvious they didn’t want to hear about the Mac, I just gave them the best advice I could under their circumstances. In a couple years, maybe they’ll come back to me and say “gee, tell me more about the Mac” after they’ve had bad experiences.

    And if they don’t have bad experiences with Windows, great! (Unlikely, but fine.)

  10. Mike Reed says:

    I think everyone is missing the point of apple’s communication.

    In recent years Apple has really tried to switch it’s core function from being about computers, to being about more of a lifestyle. When Jobs came back the first thing he did was dump BBDO ad agency in NYC and hire his old firm Chiat/Day LA with Lee Clow (one of the best Creative Directors ever). The first thing they did was put together a booklet they passed out to employees that put down Apple’s core mission: that a computer is not about the memory or the screen or anything like that, it’s about what you can do with computer that matters.

    Every bit of communication since then has been about this creative lifestyle (ie: Think Different, the iTunes/Ipod campaign, Switch and now PCvsMac guy). While all the other computers makers have been screaming about larger screens, better ram, and all this other technical jargon that no one really cares about, Apple took a completely different route.

    We can argue about memory bits and OS programming underpinnings but that not really what is at steak. The average computer user only cares about that so much. What Apple has that no other computer company has is the ‘cool’ factor. Their machines just look much better than anything else out of the market. Their design is flawless, their sans typeface is sleek and set nicely and the color pallet is awsome. If there is one thing Jobs ‘gets’ its the value of the look, design and packaging of product.

    Compare a Mac OS X box with a Windows box. The OS X box is clean looking and very simple with b/w photography. The Windows box tries to be playfull with colors but it crowded with superficial pictures of people have WAY too much fun on a computer and is just loaded with bullet points and lists that look like a tax form. It almost screams “If you think trying to figure out this box is a headache, wait until your try loading our software ha ha ha.”

    One of Chiat/Day’s best campaigns for Apple (still running) is they just take a beautiful overhead shot of the Mac and put it on the full page spread with a price. No other message. Let the beauty of the machine speak for itself.

    This new ad campaign is brillant because is goes straight for the heart of this. Right now Mac’s are just cooler looking than PCs. This ad campagin does a brilliant job reflecting this with the two characters. The old stuffy PC that only cares about Excel and the new, hip Mac that does all sorts of fun stuffy.

    Mac = fun computer your use at home, PC = stuffy box you use at work.

    Great work. It seems that the PC community reaction to this campaign pretty obvious. Why do you hate that 25-year old Mac guy with the cocksure attitude? Maybe because you’re not him or never will be. You only use your computer for pie charts.

    Maybe you hate this campaign because it’s the truth, using a Mac does make you look a little cooler than using a PC.

  11. ceazar2 says:

    I have always used a mac, I thought I had a problem so I formated my hard drive, it was just the enter button was stuck on my keyboard for spilling some pop on it.
    I updated my ancient 3 year old imac to a 1gb memory instead of one 512 chip and had them check out my system, had them install tiger and everything is fine and if there were any viruses, none now.
    I have the c.d. but have not used any of the programs, I am sure there is better stuff out there since the c.d. was put out in 1999, well have fun with your mac.

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