Many a pizza will spin and hard drives freeze over waiting for Apple to agree, but the nays have evidently had it: controversial spots that make customers look like dolts in the presence of a peripateticyoung man from the Genius Bar have been yanked.
“The Apple 'Genius' Ads Everyone Hated Are Over,” reads the Ad Age headline on a story by Rupal Parekh and Ann-Christine Diaz. The ads in question feature an eager young man in a blue T-shirt who is winningly available for free consults 24/7, whether riding in coach in an airliner or snugly slumbering in his bed.
Parekh had rounded up some of the pundit’s negative criticism in a piece last week. Former Apple creative Ken Segall is among the cited naysayers: “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."
In another anthology of antipathy, Forbes’ Jacquelyn Smith wrote: “People are decrying it as one of Apple’s most disappointing campaigns of all time, dubbing it ‘cheesy,’ ‘cringe-worthy,’ ‘intellectually cheap’ and ‘poorly executed.’” At the same time, Smith points to some other Apple flops over the years, with the “Lemmings” Super Bowl spot being one creepy, obvious and hoary example.
But “everyone” may be a bit of an overstatement. In the aggregate, YouTube “likes” of the ads in the campaign –- the three spots are dubbed “Labor Day,” “Basically” and “Mayday” -- are actually running slightly higher than “dislikes,” but that’s not the kind of standard that Apple hews to in its marketing (or anything else).
“Basically,” in which the Genius “points out there are a lot of things that separate a Mac from an ordinary computer, like great apps that come built in” is, in fact, the only one that has garnered more negative votes than positive. But tellingly, perhaps, comments have been disabled for all three videos, sparing us the vitriol.
A few columns staunchly defended the campaign; others said it wasn’t all that bad. Business Insider’s Henry Blodgett wrote on July 28: “I watched all three of the ads, expecting to be appalled.And you know what? The ads aren't dreadful.They're great!”
The main reason, he says, is that Apple has become a mainstream brand and it’s not about the technology anymore; it’s about what people can do with it. “The ads perfectly capture the ideal relationship between the ideal Apple genius and the typical mainstream consumer -- someone who is intimidated by technology,” Blodgett wrote.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment about the campaign. A spokesperson for TBWA/Media/Arts Lab tellsMashable’s Todd Wasserman that all is as it should be: “The ads were intended only for a ‘first run’ during the Olympics, which meant just the first weekend of the Games.”
“The reasoning has echoes of Microsoft’s excuse for why it ended its own much-maligned Jerry Seinfeld-Bill Gates ads,” observes GigaOm’s Erica Ogg, who admits that she didn’t find the ads “as awful as others did.” The spots “seemed directed at reaching a different demographic than people who already count themselves Apple customers,” she writes.
“In a curious move, the Genius Bar ads were never promoted to press,” point out Ad Age’s Parekh and Diaz. “And credits for the folks who worked on the commercials, something that is typically always circulated in connection with TBWA's work, were never released.”
Say what you will about that, the fact that just about “everyone” is weighing in on the campaign is just further evidence that Apple occupies a disproportionate share of our collective brand consciousness. Hmmm. Maybe not that disproportionate. It may surprise you to know that Apple is now the world’s leading manufacturer of personal computers, as Philip Elmer-DeWitt reported in Fortune Monday, when you count the iPad.