Verizon Exiles IPhone to Island of Misfit Toys for the Holidays

Too-Cool Apple Now Finding Itself on the Receiving End of Competitor Ridicule

By Published on .

Talk about your thinking different.

As everybody knows, the natural order of things is to think of Apple as the hip one, the confident one, the hero, the maverick, the iconoclast, the Marlboro cowboy with a hard drive. Not only has it been so since 1984, when the new Macintosh was famously portrayed as a tool of liberation from the tyranny of the PC "Big Brother," it's been that way since Kevin Costner walked his dog at his beach house because his Apple Lisa (with its proto-mouse) let him work from home all ruggedly and handsomely sunburnished and windblown.

Title: Island of Misfit Toys
Marketer: Verizon
Agency: McCann Erickson, New York
Apple as object of ridicule -- it almost seems to defy the laws of physics.
And, of course, for the last three years, Apple savoir faire has been embodied by Justin Long, who is the quiet and unassuming "Mac" alongside the dumpy, nerdy blowhard "PC," played by John Hodgman. Mac doesn't wish to seem superior, but PC just brings his insecure buffoonishness on himself.

That's how we understand the world. But now everything is topsy turvy, because suddenly Apple is on the defensive.

First came the Windows campaign, which featured attractive "laptop hunters" shopping for computers with all sorts of Mac-like capabilities at low, low, low PC prices. (Apple cried foul on the grounds that all MacBooks don't cost as much as a car ...) Then came Verizon's "There's a map for that" ad, which ridiculed the iPhone's spotty 3G coverage on AT&T vis-à-vis Verizon's superior network. (AT&T cried foul, claiming misleading mapping.)

Then came the $100 million introduction of the Droid, Verizon and Motorola's answer to the iPhone on AT&T, and a campaign almost entirely devoted to the shortcomings of Apple's already iconic smartphone.

That began with a cunning McGarry Bowen teaser employing a very Apple-ish all-white background to inform us -- without mentioning any names -- about the many things the iPhone cannot do. The spot was called "iDon't." ("iDon't have a real keyboard; iDon't customize; iDon't run widgets; iDon't allow open development.") Yowch. And don't expect any holiday truce, either. The group-pummeling of Apple will even take on a Christmas theme.

Hey, look! In that new commercial from McCann Erickson, New York, ... it's the Island of Misfit Toys from the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer holiday special! Look at all those mistakes from Santa's Workshop, exiled for their various manufacturing defects. There's Bird Fish -- a swimming bird! There's the sinking boat, and the unflyable plane and Trainer the train, with the square wheels on his caboose! Oh, and there's ...

... the iPhone.

"What are you doing here?" asks the spotted elephant. "You can download apps and browse the web."

"Yeah," says Misfit Dolly, "people will love you!" But when the disputed 3G coverage map appears above the iPhone, all the other toys exclaim, "Ohhh."

"You're gonna fit right in here!" giggles the unflyable plane.

Double yowch. The competition has identified some profound weaknesses in the iPhone and is exploiting them mercilessly -- precisely as Apple has mercilessly had its way with the PC for decades. It is, of course, perfectly understandable. Standard operating procedure, really. But come on, admit it: Doesn't it all seem weird? It's like the lady from "1984" tripping as she tries to throw the hammer, or catching Justin Long picking his nose and eating the boogers.

Apple as object of ridicule -- it almost seems to defy the laws of physics.

You know, like those ones from ...

... Newton.

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