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Apple's New Ads: Very cute, but will they win over "Switchers"?


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May 03, 2006

Apple's New Ads: Very cute, but will they win over "Switchers"?

Peter Burrows

I watched the new ads on Apple's homepage before leaving work last night, and there's no doubt about it: they're funny, smart and are proof that Apple is ready to step out of its corner in a big way to do battle for Switchers in a more direct way. The ads all feature a likeable but hapless nerd playing the role of a "PC" and a far cooler (and less clean shaven) sort playing the role of "Mac". There's six spots in all, five of which emphasize particular comparative advantages of the Mac, such as the Mac's lack of viruses and the PC's lack of the iLife apps (other than iTunes). The sixth spot is a glowing tribute to Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walt Mossberg's glowing tribute to the new iMac.

But while I got a good laugh, I wonder how well the ads will play with potential "switchers"? No doubt, they drive home compelling points about the attributes of the Mac. But as much as Apple's ad guys down at Chiat Day worked to create an air of friendly co-existence and mutual respect between the two characters, that old Apple elitism shines through. I'm not sure its entirely appealing.

It's as though the "too cool for school" Mac guy, with his casual hipness, has bumped into the class loser in the hall. While he's nice enough to engage in friendly banter, is there any doubt he'll mercilessly diss the poor schlemeil when he gets with his in-crowd Mac-using friends?

Yes, some of the best advertising appeals to consumers' aspirations. And no doubt, the ads will play wonderfully well with Apple's loyal base. But I bet many Windows users--with the possible exception of those that are proud iPod owners--will be put off, even if sub-conciously.

No doubt, the spots are not nearly as insulting as Apple's infamous, creepy "Lemmings" ad for Macintosh Office in the 1980s. But in terms of actual effectiveness at luring Switchers, count me a skeptic.

09:10 AM

Apple advertising

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I would like to see the characters switched. If you want to attract business people, show suit wearing people using Macs. Is the banker going to relate to the casual guy? If the CEO is using a Mac then the up and coming executive will want to emulate him/her.

Same with the iPod ads. Not all of iPod users are hip youngsters listening to hard rock or hip hop. I bought my mother an iPod and she loves it, she has it loaded with classical and '40s era music, some contemporary too.

it is almost like Apple is preaching to the choir with these ads.

Posted by: Perry Clease at May 3, 2006 12:49 PM

I think they should do an infomercial, but tastefully done. Don't push the product at all, but instead come across as an instructional video for people who have just bought their first Mac. It'd be useful for those who have just bought their first Mac and people who haven't could sit in and soak up the experience.

Have it set in nice surroundings with classy actors and relaxing music... And never mention PCs. No pressure. Just take them for the ride.

Just have a message every few minutes saying, "If you don't yet have a Mac, visit your local Apple Store, or go to apple.com"

Imagine the millions of insomniacs who end up watching big chunks of "Get The Edge," or "Bowflex." They're alone in the dark. Give them a better alternative.

Posted by: Andrew Burke at May 3, 2006 01:34 PM

You're absolutely right. There's a lot of bad feeling in the PC universe about the Mac and Macheads due primarily to such ads and evengelizing. The smugness of the Mac crowd does not help at all. Never has.

That said, I'm a diehard Mac User and I personally loved the ads. Watched them twice. Laughed and laughed.

Posted by: Gospel Moody at May 3, 2006 02:06 PM

Well, let's ask some Windows users what they think of the ads.

I think the ads do not bash PC users but show how Macs can be integrated in a PC world. The Mac is the "Better" PC.

Posted by: swissfondue at May 3, 2006 03:24 PM

The ads differentiate between business and fun computing. PCs have their place, as do Macs. If you don't need a PC, they seem to suggest (at least to me), then why have one? Go Mac instead and enjoy iLife aps and a solid computing experience.

But that PC, man is he good with a spreadsheet!

Posted by: Richard at May 3, 2006 03:42 PM

I don't think the ads are meant to appeal to business users at all. Most computer purchases in businesses are made by an IT department, with the dominant criteria being "get as cheap as possible."

Apple's ads are meant to appeal more to folks who aren't businesspeople -- i.e., everyone else. So dissing a businessperson as a button-down nerd is a no-lose proposition for Apple.

--R.J.

Posted by: Robert Jung at May 3, 2006 03:52 PM

The ads also present some pretty significant misrepresentations of truth. PCs don't crash nearly as much, and Macs crash more often then Mac users would believe (or accept), and with XP, the kinds of crashes on PCs look pretty much like the ones on Macs. I can't count the number of times Finder has died on me just clicking on a file over various X versions...

There are a lot of viruses for PCs but it's not like you get ALL of them. The real risk for viruses isn't that great - and if you do even the minimal amount of protection (install say AVG or Windows Defender - both free), your chances drop very low. Meanwhile, as predicted, now that Macs are more visible targets, we're seeing exploits in Safari and viruses for MacOS X show up. Not as bad... yet, but wait for it.

Windows actually has a pretty good selection of lifestyle apps - especially if you get Windows Media Centre (which includes at least ONE major lifestyle app Apple DOESN'T have - a TV viewer/PVR), but many of them have to be downloaded.. for free.. from Microsoft.

As for coolness. Well, I know a lot of people who look like "Mac" in the ads who use PCs. Then again, I know gamers who use Alienware.

If you're into style - go for Macs. I've used both. I like both. But I use Windows as my main system now and I enjoy it more and I get more done.

One size does not fit all. And don't insult me just because my style isn't your style. That's just being insecure - which is what I think of the ads - oozing insecurity. :)

Posted by: Jeff Lewis at May 3, 2006 04:39 PM

I challenge Jeff Lewis's comment he "gets more done" with a PC over a Mac. Superior productivity is striclty the Mac's domain. Sure, go ahead and use a PC if you want, but more productive than a Mac? I frankly don't think so. And I've used PC's too.

Posted by: PaulG at May 3, 2006 09:00 PM

Good post Jeff, but it is precisely your post that proves the many would be happier with a Mac. Let me be honest, I am a proud owner of a iMac G-5, but over my computing career have used the following machines: An Apple IIe, IBM Clone 286, IBM Clone 386 (remember when they called them clones?), Pentium 233, ibook G-3, Athlon 2800, and finally the iMac G-5. Needless to say, I am well versed in both Mac and Windows OS.

First, Crashes-- I have had Windows XP and to be honest it was a marked improvement over 98, yet it paled in comparison to the reliability of my iMac. In fact other than reboots for software updates, I have not shut off my iMac since I bought it.

Second iLife-- Yes, there are many apps in the Windows world that compare favorably to iLife, you just need to look, and look, and look. By your own admission, you the end user must put forth effort.

Third Virii-- Yes, I too survived nearly unscathed in the Windows world with only one successful virus in two decades of computing, but it was not without effort. Continual effort and vigilance.

Fourth, as for coolness, Alienware does nothing for me, but for that matter the first ibooks looked rediculous as well. But for the record, I never got compliments on my beige, or black PC that I do on my iMac.

Finally, if your happy with your PC great. As a matter of fact when I tell people about my switch, I always talk about my wife. She used Windows exclusively for ten years in business, and hates to learn new things, (she likes to learn, but dislikes tech, I should say). She complained about the Mac for a full four months, and how it didn't work the same. Thus, while Mac Fanbois like to talk about how easy the Mac is, they forget, that transitioning to a Mac is for many people quite difficult.

The reality of your post is that a PC CAN have as many good apps. CAN be secure. CAN be good looking. And CAN be useful. But at the end of the day, I would argue that this would require far more work, than on a Mac.

Finally, for me, I like the commercials, and find them to be funny.

Regards

Joe

Posted by: Joe Dokes at May 3, 2006 11:36 PM

I'm a PC user, I think the ads are great, but I don't feel like switching just for seeing it. I do however think it'll just appeal to college kids who are to lazy to figure stuff out on their own. Like previously stated, it takes a bit of work to get stuff on the PC, but in doing the work, you find yourself learning about neat applications that are only available for the PC, made by small software vendors who do not have the money to invest to test on the Apple platform (such as my previous place of employment, who I happen to use their software now in my current job)

Back to the "lazy" - not that all college kids are lazy - but there is something to be said when given a choice when you have the option of buying something that does not require you to think at all, instead of making an investment of time and money and actually learning how things work. What's the best way to find out how things work? by finding out how it isn't working, and how to fix it! That's why a lot of PC users are saavy, because of the experience of figuring stuff out. Not much to figure out on a MAC if it all just works nicely.

However, I will probably buy a MAC for my parents, though they are doing pretty well with the PC, and amazingly have not been infected by any viruses or malware (thanks to the free antispyware software out there). But as they get older, they're not going to want to have to worry about thinking about anything.

Did I just say the MACs are great for really old and young people? :)

Posted by: Paul D. at May 5, 2006 03:14 PM

I've used Macs for years and was a commercial developer on the Mac platform for much of my career. Still, I'm much more productive on a PC using Office apps and the like. Google's fee Picassa is superior to IPhoto (faster & more stable with large image libraries), and only with basic video editing do I see a Mac advantage out-of-the-box.

As for the ads, yes they may be slightly insulting to some PC users. But this is in the tradition of Apple marketing as they tend to go negative on PC users. It's a pity though as this approach does not increase market share.

Posted by: ray jones at May 5, 2006 08:36 PM

I don't like the ads. They still harp on that myth that Macs are some kind of computer for beginners. They need to run ads that show scientific apps running and talk about the power of Unix, which by itself makes Windows look like a Fisher-Price OS. Forget the "easy to use" garbage. That message has been old for about 10 years.

Posted by: BC at May 8, 2006 02:15 PM

The ads differentiate between business and fun computing. PCs have their place, as do Macs. If you don't need a PC, they seem to suggest (at least to me), then why have one? Go Mac instead and enjoy iLife aps and a solid computing experience.

But that PC, man is he good with a spreadsheet!

Posted by: DM at May 17, 2006 03:48 AM

I've only seen one of the ads for the first time tonight. The one about the mac being easier for music and art. I am a pc person, but have had plenty of time on macs including many musician friends and I bought my folks a mac and a pc and they seem to use them both quite well with no favoritism.

The point that Macs are better for art and music while the pc is better for spreadsheets seems mainly bs to me. Perhaps it is true for consumer level applications (although I am skeptical about this as well), but certainly not for pro applications (although, yes 15 years ago, mac was *it* -- but those times are long gone). Adobe and similarly excellent professional products are on both platforms with only a very few exceptions and the best music and audio software is on both platforms as well. There are actually more pro audio tools available only for PC than those available only on a Mac. All cross platform art and music software works and looks identical no matter what the platform and if you have your computer under the table and the screen open to say photoshop or cubase, I dare say no one could really tell the difference.

Only a novice or someone who never tried a pc would believe this nonsense. Perhaps many non-thoughtful wanabees buy into the Mac hype such as this, but I bet quite a few at the begining of their professional careers would be more interested and motivated when they learn that the price of entry to the identical world of professional software is still less (although not as much less these days admittedly) on a PC platform than via Apple.

But hey, they are funny ads. Just not really true.

Posted by: Ravi Ivan Sharma at May 24, 2006 12:19 AM

Dear Peter Burrows, Jeff Lewis, Paul D., and Ray Jones,

The ads point out factual differences. The facts seem make you insecure and so instead of addressing them directly you either speak in unsupportable generilizations, attack the form and style of the message, or avoid a debate on the issues entirely. You guys need to get over your Mac-envy. Mac users are very happy because we LOVE our computers and they rarely frustrate us.

Posted by: Jose Figueroa at June 18, 2006 03:07 AM


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