Are Apple's Latest Ads Really Their Worst Yet?

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One thing about Apple's new series of ads airing during the Olympics [see above and below]: They're a departure from Apple's usual messaging. Rather than focus on a product, they star a helpful if obsequious Genius Bar employee helping some people get things done when he's not ridiculing someone for not buying a Mac.

Former Apple creative Ken Segall isn't a fan, writing on his blog: '"The sky is not falling. The sky is not falling." I know it's hard to say after viewing the new batch of Mac ads that debuted on the Olympics. I'm still in a bit of shock myself. Sure, Apple has had a low point or two in its advertising past -- but its low points are usually higher than most advertisers' high points. This is different. 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."

But are they really the worst ads that Apple's ever run? And even they are, is this really a sign of the beginning of the end for Apple without its founder, Steve Jobs, putting his touch on the company's ads? Because it would hardly be the first time in the company's history that an ad has been deemed a failure.

The first time was with a spot in the early '80s for Macintosh Office called "Lemmings," which -- depicting a line of businesspeople blindfolded and falling off a cliff -- was a big flop, with many people decrying it as insulting.

Apple's longtime lead creative agency is TBWA Media Arts Lab, which was also behind the Siri commercials starring celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson and Zooey Deschanel, and before that, the well-liked "Get a Mac" campaign starring John Hodgman and Justin Long.

Here's what some other critics of the Genius Bar ads had to say.

"The spots themselves aren't exactly nauseating, just strangely disappointing when compared to Apple's classic back catalog of commercials -- the marketing equivalent of Michael Phelps' fourth-place finish in the 400 IM." -- Jordan Weissmann, The Atlantic

"The problem is they portray Apple customers, or wannabe Apple customers in the case of the last one, as idiots. Is that really the image Apple wants to give off? The ads also undermine one of the main selling points of a Mac -- that it's a complete doddle to use. The programs are supposed to be so simple you don't need someone, or a 700-page guide, to tell you how to use it. You just pick it up and get started." -- Joe Svetlik, CNET U.K.