Namely: Microsoft sucks.
Now, you could say, no, Apple stands for sleek design, the sophistication of its media applications and the stability of its operating system. But compared to what? Compared only to Windows, and before that MS-DOS. The Macintosh was born as the defiant answer to IBM's PC (operating system by Microsoft), as expressed in the greatest ad of all time, "1984."
In that classic, the PC-dominated society was an Orwellian nightmare of info-tyranny, in which the masses of devolved drones sat in the brainwashed thrall of a raving Big Brother. They did, that is, until liberated from their mind slavery by a hot-looking chick slinging a track-and-field hammer at the giant telescreen. Big Brother was IBM, the babe was the new Apple Macintosh and the audience was put on notice:
You are what you compute with.
If the point weren't clear enough in 1984, the advertiser followed up the next year by portraying PC users as business-suited lemmings, mindlessly walking off a cliff. Oddly, some PC users took offense to the characterization.
Cult with a ticker symbol
In the ensuing two decades, Apple has had ample opportunity to broaden its audience -- and increase sales -- but for reasons best known to Steve Jobs, it has subordinated market share to corporate ethos. Apple isn't really a company; it's a cult with a ticker symbol. Only a handful of brands in the history of commerce -- Marlboro, Nike, DeBeers diamonds and maybe Ivory soap -- have been as true to their defining raison d'etre.
It's amazing. Maybe more amazing, though, is how TBWA/Chiat/Day continues to find fresh ways to flatter the faithful by belittling the uninitiated. Its current TV campaign does so magnificently, maybe the finest iteration of Apple's brand meaning since "1984" itself.
There are six spots, each featuring two guys. One is young and hip and informally dressed. The other is a button-down dweeb pushing middle age. Guess which one is the Windows user? In one spot, the dweeb is grooving awkwardly to whatever he's playing on his iPod, probably Tony Orlando and Dawn.
DWEEB: Just a little something to hold my slow jam.
KID: Oh, yeah?
DWEEB: Yeah, and it works so seamlessly with iTunes.
KID: Did you check out iMovie, iPhoto, iWeb, because they all work like iTunes. You know: iLife. Pfsssst. (He gestures to indicate "integrated.") Comes on every iMac.
DWEEB: iLife. Well ... I ... I have some very cool "apps" that are bundled with me.
KID: Like, whadya ... whadya got?
KID: That's cool. Anything else?
DWEEB: Clock ... a cl-clock.
The transcription, once again, doesn't do justice to the bravura performances. The kid is cool without being hipsterish or condescending, and the straight guy is just wonderfully clueless. Sure, he's a caricature, but a funny one. The way he dances flatfooted and air-apostrophes "apps" is just delicious.
PC man and Mac Boy
In each of the spots, PC man is gently deflated by Mac Boy over freezing screens, susceptibility to viruses and so on. But what makes it all so charming is that the kid treats the dweeb with kindness and respect. He clearly finds the poor schnook both amusing and pitiful, but doesn't show him any attitude. His coolness doesn't reside in his t-shirt or his wispy goatee; it's in his supreme comfort with himself.
This may seem like a modest boast, compared to the heroic imagery of "1984," but it's nearly as powerful. "Microsoft sucks" once was a primal scream of outrage. Nowadays, it's e-Marlboro Country.
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Review 3.5 stars
Location: Playa Del Rey, Calif.