If Don Draper is right, Apple is wrong. The “Mad Men” character uses the creative strategy that “if you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” Apple has been under siege, but isn’t following the Draper mantra in a new ad campaign.
The tech giant has been grappling with an emerging
challenge from Samsung and perceived lack of coolness, certainly contributing to a cratering stock price. It’s also faced scrutiny for working conditions at its manufacturing plants in China and
questions about why it is doing so much manufacturing in China in the first place and taking jobs from Americans.
More recently, Congress has raised concerns whether Apple is dodging taxes owed on overseas profits. A Senate subcommittee has charged it's used “offshore entities” and complex schemes to avoid paying billions of dollars.
“The proper place for the bulk of Apple’s creative energy ought to go into its innovative products and services, not in its tax department,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said in a statement.
The subcommittee brought Apple CEO Tim Cook to Washington last month to defend the company’s practices. Cook said Apple has complied with all tax laws and has no plans to change policy until the U.S. undergoes tax reform.
On the issue of jobs overseas, Apple clearly is sensitive. At the same Senate hearing, Cook said Apple has plans to invest $100 million to build Macs in the U.S. Cook also telegraphed the new Apple campaign, saying Apple is a proud American company that’s served as an economic engine, notably with its genius teams in Cupertino, Calif.
The campaign is highlighted by a 60-second TV spot, looking to show how transformative and intrinsic Apple devices are to people’s lives. The ad is beautifully produced and at times moving.
There are shots of what appears to be a parent and child using an iPad together, a couple pausing to capture a romantic moment with an iPhone photo and what looks like grandparents enjoying a video at a family gathering thanks to a Mac.
The voiceover offers: “This is what matters. The experience of a product. How it makes someone feel … We spend a lot of time on a few great things until every idea we touch enhances each life it touches.”
The spot closes with “Designed By Apple in California” on screen. Whoa!
With that message, Apple certainly isn’t changing the conversation about its various controversies. It’s going on the offensive with its patriotic angling.
The average person may not have been following the Apple travails enough to notice. He or she may even take something positive away about California cool and Apple brilliance.
But to so many others in government, business, organized labor,
the word “designed” instead of “made” has to be jarring -- and carry a negative connotation. It raises the issue why one of the richest companies in the world won’t do
more to support the American worker. And, why if it is so committed to California, it’s allegedly using all sorts of loopholes to cheat the American treasury.
While people are enjoying prime-time TV, why remind them?
What’s shocking about the campaign – which has also included spreads in national newspapers – is Apple taking the risk that it might be perceived as political. The company has cultivated a wonderful image about making life easier and more enjoyable for all. Politics is inherently divisive. If Apple believes in itself and the probity of its business practices, why go near that by choice?
Developing a campaign that can recapture momentum from Samsung? That’s another story.