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 call to "Think Different."
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 commercials and ads have always been simple, intelligent, funny, to the point, but most of all, cool, because that's exactly what kind of customers the company wants to attract. But Apple's recent ads for the Mac, which feature an Apple "Genius" helping customers in need, is unfortunately one of those rare times that Apple missed the mark.
On YouTube, Apple's three videos all have relatively poor viewer ratings on YouTube. The "Mayday" ad has about 3,284 likes and 1,309 dislikes (71 percent approval), the "Labor Day" ad has 2,357 likes and 932 dislikes (another 71 percent approval), and the third ad, "Basically," has 3,144 likes and 1,356 dislikes (70 percent approval). In comparison, the 1984 ad has a 93 percent approval rating, and the iPod "Silhouette" commercials have a 99 percent approval rating. Even its latest ad for the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, "Every Dimension," has a 96 percent approval rating.
It's not just casual Apple fans who dislike 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."
Why Apple Misses Steve Jobs
One of Apple's defining characteristics, which distinguishes the company from rivals like Microsoft and Google, is its taste. Apple has just always been about stylish, simple and sophisticated computers for the casual and professional end user. But while Apple's products have retained their top-notch quality, one aspect of Apple's business that feels missing now is the presentation.
Steve Jobs believed in the importance of presentation and the element of surprise. He was a perfectionist in all of these areas, and it would drive people -- his people -- insane. He wasn't always right, but his persnickety sensibilities would force the product to be endlessly scrutinized before its release, whether it was hardware, software, or even advertising.
Unfortunately, there is no way that these new advertisements, as they are currently shown, would have gotten past Jobs' discriminating eye.
As many have pointed out, the advertisements make the average user appear dim-witted and in need of "Genius" assistance. Past Apple ads showed "ordinary people doing extraordinary things" with their Apple products, and they wouldn't need expert instruction to do so.
The ads attempt to be funny, but simply aren't. The "Mayday" ad is the best, showing a Genius assist various passengers with their Mac projects before the plane lands, but the characters -- especially the Genius -- don't feel flattering toward Apple's brand. The Genius is a bright, attractive young guy, but the writing and intelligence of the script itself not reflective of the Apple brand.
The Apple brand has always been about excellence in technology, art and industrial design, but without Steve Jobs, the company unfortunately lacks flavor and style. Tim Cook is doing his best in Jobs' place, but no current Apple employee could replace Jobs.
It's difficult to know if Apple would have still made these missteps if Jobs were alive; I think it's best not to think about that. Companies make mistakes all the time, and even Jobs was prone to errors. But on the two most important fronts to Jobs -- marketing and secrecy/presentation -- Apple has not been doing too well. One hopes it won't create a massive campaign out of the Mac ads.
Many users are clearly not big fans of the new commercials. Apple should take the criticisms, reflect on its past and current campaigns, and move on.
What do you think of these ads? Shoot us an email or write a comment in the section below.