Returning from vacation, I found my Twitter stream and blog feeds overrun with criticisms of the Genius ads unveiled by Apple during the Olympics. I got around to watching all three of them on Monday. I should’ve dashed off the post I wanted to do right away. I didn’t, and now as I finally sit down to write it, CNET informs me that Apple seems to have pulled the campaign in response to the negative reaction: Apple Pulls Its Boy Genius Ads.
I’m not going to let that stop me.
I’m not a marketing expert either, but that hasn’t stopped anyone else, so I don’t see why I should let it stop me either.
So here goes,
I don’t see why there has been so much hate for these ads. As several people have pointed out, they aren’t fundamentally very different from the Get A Mac campaign, and nowhere near being the worst ever. Honestly, I don’t get it. I confess, I just don’t think they’re that bad. I even find one of them rather funny.
As I see it, there are three ads, with three simple messages and three target groups. I’ve tried to describe my first impressions of each one, without over-analyzing:
This ad is aimed at consumers who are tempted by look-alike products. The message is the look-alike products don’t come loaded with software that lets you do the cool stuff that people who have Apple products do. Basically, don’t be fooled into getting ripped off.
This one is for business users. If you’ve ever been madly editing a presentation on your PC on a plane and trying desperately to finish before touchdown, or at least save your work before shutting down just in case, then this ad speaks to you. Of course you don’t take it literally, but I think lots of business people don’t care what computer they’re using, they just want to get that “keynote” done. This is the only ad that targets the working adult demographic.
3. Labor Day
I admit, this one is a little strange. I think there are almost two messages. Primarily, it says “Apple products let you easily make beautiful cards and photo albums for sharing with your friends and family.” I think it has a strong secondary message though, and this one is “Apple knows that technology isn’t the most important thing in life and wants its customers to spend time on what really matters.” It could be a gentle (or not so gentle) jab at those so addicted to showing off to their friends that they forget to really live, however I think the last bit may be going too far.
In my opinion, the Genius in the ads is handsome and likeable. He doesn’t seem like a dork, and his earnestness should appeal to both younger and older consumers, but perhaps not young and middle-aged adults. (Think Justin Bieber) With the possible exception of the Mayday ad, I don’t think the tech-savvy working class is the target demographic of these ads. Perhaps that age group feels left out and isn’t comfortable with Apple obviously targeting a less affluent (tempted by cheaper Apple look-alike products) consumer base. Or perhaps they don’t like the thought of being shown up by the young Apple Genius. In any case, my take is that if you fall into this demographic and are already an Apple customer, then there’s a good chance these ads weren’t meant for you.
Still I wonder if I’ve missed something in trying to approach these ads in the simplest way possible. They obviously touched a nerve. Is it just a symptom that people are still mourning for Steve Jobs? Or is there a deeper cultural reason for the aversion to the ads? If there is, I haven’t figured it out yet.