“Do you think Steve Jobs would have approved these ads?”
Now you’re making me mad. I will never answer a “What would Steve do” question and I hate it when people speculate like that. None of us can possibly know what Steve would do. Steve was a master marketer, but he was also perfectly capable of a lapse in judgment. It’s unfortunate that this campaign is appearing now, nine months after Steve passed away, because the timing only fuels the argument that everything will crumble now that Steve is gone. I don’t buy that.
The truth is, advertising is hard. A lot of really talented people at Chiat pour their hearts into creating the ads that we critique. As you know, Apple’s ads succeed far more often than they fail — just like Apple itself. Every one of us, Steve Jobs included, has experienced failure. It may sound trite, but it’s how one responds to failure and what one learns from the experience that defines character, whether you’re an individual or a corporation.
“So is the sky falling or not? You’re confusing me.”
The fact is, bad ads happen. And sometimes they happen to really good people. The tragedy would be if Apple acted like a politician and dug in its heels for the sake of appearances. I don’t think that will happen. Apple is good at fixing mistakes — and this is one that could use a major-league fixing.
Ken Segall has a unique opinion on Apple’s advertising because he for many years was at the top of Apple advertising from within. You should read the rest of his piece if the Genius ads still concern you. It’s the closest thing to a gin and tonic for the troubled Apple fan’s soul.
… These new ads seem to be going after the same demographic: people who are not current Apple customers, particularly those who are not Mac owners. They attempt to differentiate Apple by demonstrating how accessible, passionate and helpful a Mac genius can be. But there’s another message too: it shows what you can do with a Mac (make baby announcement cards, coffee table photo books, business presentations). The fact that the genius helped an airline passenger make a quick video for his wife in just a few minutes before the airplane took off sends a message of iMovie’s simplicity.
In this sense, they’re following in the same footsteps as the company’s recent celebrities-using-Siri campaign — which also starred real (OK, “real”) people using an Apple product showcasing what it can do. Those ads, particularly the first one starring actress Zooey Deschanel, were also mocked for being too conventional and because Apple hasn’t relied on celebrity endorsement ads. But they show a product (Siri) in action in a way that’s very difficult to get across with a simple explanation. You have to see something like voice control embedded in a phone’s software in action to understand its value.
The problem for current Apple users is the artifice. Bottom line: we like humor and smart advertising, but this new series feels hollow, and a little pretentious. Why? The users in the ads are stereotypical, and the genius is too sincere, giving, and understanding.
And even so, I think these ads do work for the company that just recently was still selling iPod socks. Sometimes Apple users take the company too seriously and forget Apple’s real humanity is what sets them apart. The genius in the ads may represent the Genius Bar on the whole… but more importantly, he is a lot like some Geniuses I’ve met that helped me with my Macs. He’s realistic on many levels that I’ve experienced.
If you, like me, can’t concentrate on anything but Apple’s Mountain Lion release, then you will want to read some solid articles pertaining to the new Mac OS. The most notable I’ve read thus far is from Shawn Blanc.
In his article he points out many of the little tweaks in Mountain Lion that make it enjoyable and superior to the previous Mac OS called Lion. Here is my favorite of his remarks:
The keyboard shortcut for “Save As” is back, but it’s different. Apple says: Use Command-Shift-Option-S to save a document using a different name and location.
See? Apple fixes their mistakes. It’s the little things that add up to make Mountain Lion needful to everyday users. I’ve been looking for a good “Save As” shortcut since the day I installed Lion.
John GruberApple’s post-PC vision isn’t about input devices — mice, keyboards, pens, whatever. It’s about exposed complexity. Tim Carmody argues in a follow-up at The Verge that Apple’s “post-PC” and Microsoft’s “PC-plus” aren’t that far apart. I think that remains to be seen. With the iPad, Apple has eliminated large amounts of complexity. With Windows 8, it remains to be seen whether Microsoft has eliminated complexity, or merely hidden it behind a Metro veneer.
I think the Steve Jobs quote Microsoft should be focused upon far predates this post-PC stuff. Go back to 1997:
“We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose,” Jobs said. “We have to embrace the notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job. If others are going to help us, that’s great. Because we need all the help we can get. […] The era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft is over.”
Swap “Apple” and “Microsoft” and that’s the advice Microsoft needs today.
John Gruber writes persuasively about the leadership Apple has taken in the computing market:
This, it’s now clear, was correct. If anything, it was understated — Apple is now the strongest and most successful company in the world, across any and all industries.
If not for the iPad — imagine, for a moment, that the company still to this day had not shipped a tablet — Apple would still be thriving, based on huge (and hugely profitable) iPhone sales and the Mac’s steady continuing growth (six years of consecutive quarterly growth ahead of the overall PC industry). But it was the iPad that pushed Apple over the top. The iPhone suggested Apple would dominate pocket computing. The iPad suggests Apple will dominate computing, period.Daring Fireball »
I’m so glad as a life-long Apple user to see this day finally come. I’ve always felt that Apple cares about people and machines more than the ‘almighty’ dollar.
I think that whether people new to Apple and their products perceive this to be true depends on whether they continue to use Apple stuff as I have. Honestly, Apple just does so many things right that when they make a mistake I believe the problem was truly beyond their control, and I forgive them without a moment’s notice. When other tech companies make mistakes it looks like they were just being careless.
It’s important to keep in mind that, if Apple were to provide a new platform for Internet audio and video producers, they’d likely want to see a revenue opportunity to at least break even and cover the costs of offering a better experience. With Newsstand, Apple got several publishers (including Time) on board with the revenue cut business model whilst providing an integrated solution to the end user. With podcasts on iOS, there is certainly room for improvement — but it has to make sense for Apple too, not just the developers and end users.MacStories »
Good point. Ping didn’t necessarily make money for Apple though. I know it’s not been a huge hit, but what if it were? Ping ultimately pointed back to their music for sales in iTunes, but those are indirect sales at best.
For podcasting, I think it could work similarly. If you discover podcasts, that often means you’re getting exposed to sponsors that sell a lot of apps or movies or TV shows and the like in the iTunes store. So a podcast app, like Ping is to music, could encourage sales in other ways.