From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:
Apple is well-known for its iconic advertising from the 1984 ad to the “Get a Mac” (“I’m a Mac, I’m a PC”) campaign. And for good reason: They got people’s attention and, each in their time, crystallized Apple’s essential appeal.
The current campaign? Not so much.
The ads, which debuted during the Olympics’ opening ceremony, have come in for scathing reviews. They depict an Apple “genius” from its Genius Bars helping clueless new Mac owners do, well, pretty simple stuff with their Macs.
And that description is the root of the problem in the minds of critics. One especially qualified critic, former Apple adman Ken Segall, offered a litany of reasons why the ads miss the mark, responding to his Apple fanboy alter ego. A couple of them in particular struck me as on the mark based on my own initial reaction:
“Be honest now. That Genius guy is perfectly cast.”
You’re kidding, right? He does an excellent job of fitting the stereotype of an Apple Store Genius, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. These spots are actually cast as if they’re sitcoms — with exaggerated characters like the father-to-be in Labor Day, or the passenger in Mayday, or the sleazy PC store owner in Basically. The spots try to make their points through comedy alone, with little sense of authenticity in characters or situations.
“I did wonder if it was a good idea to make customers seem so clueless.”
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. …