Why Apple's Oscar Ad Won't Go Viral

Focus on TV, Aversion to Social Media, Stalls Web Viewing

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Apple went big on TV for the new iPad with multiple spots during the Oscars telecast, but don't expect "Meet iPad" to do huge numbers on the web.

While other big-budget TV marketers have taken to flogging their TV ads using social tools on YouTube, Twitter and elsewhere, Apple's strategy is decidedly retro. For Apple, it's all about driving viewers to Apple.com, and a potential sale; dissemination of the video itself is secondary.

To wit: Apple's "Meet iPad" has registered 275,000 views on the web after its debut before an Oscars audience of 41 million Sunday night, from 70 different placements, according to Visible Measures. Respectable, but given the general excitement on the web for new Apple products, a sleepy start. The most-viewed copy with just about 100,000 views was uploaded by a YouTube user, not by Apple.

Social aversion
Apple generally does not participate in distribution channels it doesn't control, especially social media, which collides with the CEO Steve Jobs' command-and-control style of running the company. For example, Apple does operate a Twitter handle for iTunes, but @apple is in cold storage.

But Apple's approach is particularly striking given how much energy even the least tech-y major marketers spend to get web views on, say, their Super Bowl campaigns to squeeze additional return on their multimillion-dollar investments. By contrast, Apple's online distribution of its ads focuses on ad buys on, say, Yahoo's home page or in rich media units on YouTube, NYTimes.com or WSJ.com.

"They have willfully abstained at a time when everyone else is hopping on this bandwagon," said Matt Cutler, VP at Visible Measures.

Apple's enthusiastic user base can be reliably trusted to devour anything related to the company or CEO Steve Jobs. Apple never has to even ask. But given that enthusiastic support, Apple ads tend to underperform on the web; only one has made Ad Age's viral chart in the past year, which is typically populated by lesser marketers.

Different approach for iPad
But Apple may be changing its playbook in the iPad, at least a little. The company posted six iPad-related videos to its YouTube channel, albeit with comments turned off, and even allows users to embed the videos on their own sites.

It's a step in a different direction, but as one observer points out, far from embracing the kind of interaction that drives sharing. "This is no different than putting a TV ad on ABC -- it's just going where the eyeballs are," said Steve Rubel, senior VP at Edelman Digital.

Another factor is Apple's ads, by longtime agency TBWA/Media Arts Lab, are made for TV and don't translate as well online as this spoof if an iPhone ad, which has done about 1.1 million views on YouTube.

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