Thursday, November 09, 2006

Apple Dumps the Smarmy Guy

You have to hand it to Apple. Most of the time, they do things right. But when they do things wrong, they admit it and mop up their mess. This time, they finally realized their misstep with their "Apple Guy versus PC Guy" campaign, the result of an ad agency gone out of control.

If you haven't seen the campaign, it pits an ad agency's idea of a "cool guy" against a bloated, Bill Gates-inspired buffoon in a variety of head-to-head performance situations. Predictably, the PC guy falls all over himself, while the Mac guy smugly savors his little victories.

I'm sure all kinds of empty-headed, iPod-toting Mac-addicts got a cheap thrill out of the public drubbing of PC's. Unfortunately, this bit of self-involved idolatry landed Apple where they least expected to be:

In the Bad Guy seat.

Yup, the numbers are in and it seems the campaign actually did more to alienate people from Mac and actually - get this - make them feel sorry for the poor PC schlub. It's no wonder, because this is typical of out-of-touch agencies and their continued disservice to their clients.

Apple's brand strategy, while never really being articulated, has always revolved around its users' refusal to be lumped in with the Lowest Common Denominator. In the beginning, Apples were the "computers for the rest of us." A few years ago, that strategy was extended by celebrating the virtues of "thinking different."

Nice. Dead on. Good messaging, because that's how Mac users perceive themselves. They not only see themselves as being the underdogs with a secret, they actually take pride in it. This, in a nutshell, is one reason why Apple is the brand that refuses to die.

Now they bring along a campaign that's 180 degrees opposite from that brand strategy. In that cheap-shot kind of easy pickin's style that only the smarmiest, Bill Mahr fans think is amusing, Apple's ad agency decided that maybe Apple could appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator. They decided that faux cool was enough to gain public acceptance.

What they got was a failed ad campaign, right in their face. Now the Apple Guy is getting dumped. Hopefully, so will Apple's ad agency.


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