Apple Pulls Mac ‘Genius’ Ads Entirely: Why It's Not Over Yet

Analysis

 @redletterdave
on August 22 2012 5:26 PM
Apple, Without Steve Jobs, Loses Marketing Touch: New 'Genius' Ads For Mac Lack Style, Substance
The 1984 ad for Macintosh. The "silhouette" ads for iPod. The "Mac vs. PC" series. Even when Apple didn't create "insanely great" products, the one thing Apple could always do was create compelling and clever advertisements. Since Steve Jobs first reached out to Lee Clow, the creative director at Chiat/Day, Apple's advertisements have always reflected the company's penchant to "Think Different," but the latest ads for Mac, which feature a "Genius" helping out people in need, misses the mark. Courtesy

Apple commercials have always been simple, witty, funny, to the point, but most of all, they're cool, because that's exactly what kind of customers Apple wants to attract. Unfortunately, the company's most recent set of ads for the Mac, which featured an Apple "Genius" helping customers in need, were absolutely abysmal. Across the board, fans and critics hated the commercials.

In response to this unprecedented disapproval, Apple reportedly has pulled all of the "Genius" commercials from its website and from its YouTube channel. Apple would like to believe these three Mac commercials never existed, and so would we.

Unprecedented Disapproval

Apple is constantly under a microscope, but it's a rare occasion when it produces something that is so universally disliked. On YouTube, Apple's three videos all had relatively poor viewer ratings: The "Mayday" ad had about 3,284 likes and 1,309 dislikes (71 percent approval), the "Labor Day" ad had 2,357 likes and 932 dislikes (another 71 percent approval), and the third ad, "Basically," had 3,144 likes and 1,356 dislikes (70 percent approval). In comparison, the famous 1984 ad had a 93 percent approval rating, and the iPod "Silhouette" commercials have a 99 percent approval ratings. Even the company's latest ad for the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, "Every Dimension," has a 96 percent approval rating.

It wasn't just casual Apple fans who hated the new Mac ads. Ken Segall, who worked with Steve Jobs at NeXT and Apple as a creative director at TBWA/Chiat/Day, also tore the new "Genius" ads apart on his personal website.

"Repeat after me: 'The sky is not falling. The sky is not falling,'" Segall said. "I know it's hard to say after viewing the new batch of Mac ads that debuted on the Olympics. I'm still in a bit of shock myself.

"Sure, Apple has had a low point or two in its advertising past --- but its low points are usually higher than most advertisers' high points. This is different. These ads are causing a widespread gagging response, and deservedly so. I honestly can't remember a single Apple campaign that's been received so poorly."

Segall's argument is that if Apple wanted to target non-Apple users, this was not the way to go about doing it. He points to the "Mac vs. PC" marketing campaign, which "actually galvanized the Mac crowd to heavy up on the preaching."

Can Apple Get Its Taste Back?

Apple may be defined by its wildly popular products and gadgets, but the one distinguishing trait that sets Apple apart from its rivals like Google and Microsoft is taste.

Apple has just always been about stylish, simple and sophisticated computers and products made for casual and professional users, and while Apple has maintained its high standards for quality, its business is now missing something very important: Presentation.

Under Steve Jobs, Apple was all about presentation. Product unveilings, public speaking engagements, even trips to Apple stores, Jobs had a great eye for detail, taste, surprise and excitement. For better or worse, Jobs always had an extremely discriminating eye for perfection.

Mike Markkula, Apple's first major investor and chairman, explained Apple's guiding principles in a one-page paper, "The Apple Marketing Philosophy."

"We will truly understand [the customer's] needs better than any other company," Markkula wrote. "People DO judge a book by its cover. We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities."

Apple's ads have always been reflective of the company's creative, rebellious identity. From the 1984 ad for Macintosh to the "silhouette" iPod ads, Apple's ads have always caused viewers to "Think Different."

The latest batch of commercials, the "Genius" ads, were completely uninspired. They played like typical commercials for other companies. They weren't witty, or funny, or smart. They just were. And that's not enough for Apple.

It's a bit scary to think that those commercials were published for the Olympics and on YouTube, but nobody at Apple managed to catch them before they went up, and say, "Hey, I don't think this is very good." Did no marketing analyst look at the "Genius" ads and wonder if they would make Apple customers look like imbeciles?

Careful checking must not have occurred if these ads were allowed to be published as they were, which is very un-Apple. Compounded with the fact that Apple's latest Siri ads are pretty underwhelming too, there are plenty of reasons for fans to worry about the quality coming out of Apple's marketing team.

Fans have worried if Apple would drastically change much without Steve Jobs to head up the company. Jobs' death hasn't affected the excellence coming out of Apple's product workshop, but without an injection of taste and personality into the company, Apple's marketing will be just like every other tech company out there. Apple needs to do whatever it takes to get its taste back, and fast. Its rivals aren't waiting around anymore.

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