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Steve Jobs marketing whiz slams new Apple ads

New Apple ads look like Dell, Best Buy spots

There’s been a lot of vitriol about Apple’s latest TV ads, aired for the first time during NBC’s Olympics coverage – itself not without its haters.

Some of the comments made about the ‘Apple Genius’ ads include: ‘embarrassing’, ‘cheap’, ‘cringe-inducing’, and ‘dreadful’.

Others have defended the Apple adverts from accusations that they make Apple users look inept and foolish, arguing instead that the new ads are not aimed at Apple fanboys and nerds but real people.

One person who you really should listen to about good or bad Apple marketing is former Chiat\Day creative guru and Apple marketing whiz Ken Segall, who worked with Steve Jobs at NeXT and on hisreturn to Apple – coming up with Think Different and even the very name ‘iMac’.

What does Ken, who this year wrote a great book (Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success) about Apple’s marketing genius, think of these ads?

He really doesn’t like them.

“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,” says Segall on his Observatory blog.

“It feels like something Best Buy would do. Maybe even Dell. It doesn’t have the feel of quality that has defined previous Apple advertising.”

He slams the defence that the ads aren’t as cool as usual because they are aimed at first timers as “horrible”: To defend the new Mac ads by saying ‘Hey, they’re not aimed at you’ is just a naive view of advertising.”

New Apple ads slammed genius campaign

See also: Apple news and reviews

“How many great campaigns have you seen that appeal to one target group, but turn off everyone else? There’s no excuse for a campaign like that.

“Apple’s momentum is fueled by the enthusiasm of its core customers. The last thing it wants is to win new customers at the cost of looking ridiculous to its enthusiastic supporters.”

These spots are actually cast as if they’re sitcoms. The spots try to make their points through comedy alone, with little sense of authenticity in characters or situations.

The script for Basically just makes me squirm. It’s like going to open mike night at the local comedy club.”

“Therein lies another problem with this campaign. In the effort to show that the Genius is the most helpful guy in the world, Apple has created customers who, shall we say, are on the dim side.

“In past ads, Apple has shown “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” simply because Apple products are so easy to use. Now we have thick people who want to be better, but need a Genius to help. Not exactly flattering.

Segall wisely bats back any question that Steve Jobs would have rejected these new Apple ads.

“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.

“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,” Segall concludes.

Read the whole Segall review of Apple's new ads here.


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