Friday, August 10

Missing The Message: Apple Not-So-Genius Ads

When I first saw the advertising campaign rolled out by Apple for the Olympics, my stomach dropped. It was one of the biggest advertising missteps since the Tropicana Orange Juice rebranding blunder.

There were two schools of thought behind the advertisements and no champions. Either the campaign intent seemed to be an attempt to reach a broader group of consumers who are older and less tech savvy or the agency that created the ads was also thinking of the past.

They wanted to harken back to the "Get a Mac" campaign created by ad agency TBWA Media Arts Lab. On that measure, they failed too. The old "Get A Mac" campaign ads were from a different era when Apple was the underdog.

The "Get A Mac" ads also represent some of the best comparison spots in history, hard hitting but not so hard that anyone thought they were mean. The characters cast immediately disarmed any negative impressions. Other than using a person, the new campaign bears no resemblance to it.

The Apple Genius ads represent everything the company never intended.

In total, the new ad campaign consisted of a series of three spots, each focusing on the Apple Genius as a character. If you haven't seen them, I'm including one. I couldn't bring myself to share all three.



There are several reasons the ads don't work, but let's highlight the five most obvious.

1. Apple has had a tradition of showing people what's possible without any help. These advertisements turn the tables 360 degrees and tell everyone that you can't do anything on your own.

2. Apple has had a tradition of making its commercials about the customer. These advertisements are clearly about how smart Apple can be.

3. Apple has had a tradition of celebrating the product without being presumptuous; its genius is matter of fact. These advertisements sell something that doesn't really come in the box.

4. Apple always had a knack for creating a clean but edgy brand atmosphere right down to the people in its brick and mortar stores. The person cast doesn't look like any Apple Genius who helped me.

5. Apple has had a tradition of simplifying the message so it conveys one single point. This one rattles off various software and features that the only message is how much you have to buy. Nothing sticks.

It makes me wonder. Did the fine folks who worked at the agency responsible ever see this video?


If they never did, I hope Apple takes heart and makes it mandatory for anyone who wins a creative bid again. At a time when consumers are still saddened by the loss of Steve Jobs and feel uncertain about the company's direction, developing an advertising campaign that marks an end of era just reminds us.

Yes, these advertisements were something different, but not in the way Apple defined it. Broadening the base with low brow advertising isn't the answer. It's about putting possibility in the hands of everybody. You know, like ping playlists, which were still broken when I wrote this piece.
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