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

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.