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Latest iPhone campaign hits the mark for me

Having been an Apple fanboy since buying my first Apple computer back in 1984 (around the time I first got into the ad business), I have always watched the company’s advertising with great interest. During the Steve Jobs era, the ads were icons of marketing, oozing the Apple brand through every pore.

Jobs was a master of intuition. He knew what made this brand resonate with people, and understood that the products didn’t need to be hailed as heroic because the products were the experience, which was the brand. What the products did was heroic. How they transformed lives was heroic. How they made complicated things easy was heroic. The experience of using the products was the key issue. The ads struck an emotional chord with their simplicity, clarity and often with their understated humor. As Advertising Age put it in referring to the long-running ‘Mac vs. PC‘ series, “Long and Hodgman… were human stand-ins in for machines, the former cast as the hip, efficient Mac, the latter as the lumbering, hapless PC. Meanwhile, ads for the iPhone had fingers dancing across a touchscreen, each function revealed like a movement in a high-tech symphony.”

After Job’s untimely death, I worried that the company’s advertising would lose that precious connection to the brand’s emotional power. For nearly two years the brand messaging seemed to flounder, with marketing that never quite hit the mark.

When Apple released their “Designed by Apple” campaign by agency TBWA/Media Arts Lab a few months ago, I was dismayed. The ads were forced and empty. They seemed like a cheap attempt to recreate the brilliant “Think Different” campaign but they failed miserably. They were boastful, talking too much about the company. Where “Think Different” put the focus on the people who used Apple products, making them the heroes, the “Designed by Apple” commercials made the company the hero. It was awkward, completely wrong for the brand.

“This is it,” one of them begins. “This is what matters: the experience of a product. How it makes someone feel. Will it make life better? Does it deserve to exist?”

Jobs would never have referred to a “product” because doing so separates the product from the experience. His view was that the “product” should be invisible. So why was the company now talking about “a product”? Worse, the ads referred to “it” as some disembodied component. In an effort to try and connect the product to the experience of using it, the ad actually accomplished the opposite!

No wonder that the impact of Apple ads tested ever lower. “Our Signature” earned the lowest score among 26 Apple spots over the previous year, according to Ace Metrix, which analyzes the effectiveness of commercials based on consumer surveys. The ad scored 489, far below the industry average of 542.

Fortunately, the latest iPhone 5 ads are turning it around, at least for me. I feel really good about this latest campaign.

The new “Every Day” ads allow Apple’s brand equity to shine by showing how the products improve people’s lives without forcing the issue through clumsy words. They simply show the brand in action, highlighting believable scenarios that sweep you up in the intensity of the stories. I feel something when watching, and most of all I feel proud to be associated with Apple. Kudos to TBWA/Media Arts Lab for getting it right.

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George Pytlik

George Pytlik has been involved in the advertising industry for over 30 years and designed his first website when the Internet was one year old. He was an internationally recognized speaker on advertising and branding and served on a number of communication committees at various times throughout his career, as well as writing a regular column for Marketing magazine.

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