Gene Munster, a Piper Jaffray analyst who has followed Apple for
years, said that recent ads featuring an Apple "Genius" employee
who aids customers mark the first time the company has focused on
service rather than products. Such moves are probably inevitable,
he said. "How they grow the business shifts when you get the kind
of market share they have."
Apple recently notched the biggest market capitalization of any
public company, and its profit in the second quarter came in at
about $8.8 billion.
The rebel shtick of Apple's past ads was adopted to sell
Macintoshes, iMacs and more when others led the field. Now Apple is
the leader and risks being seen as just another of the big tech
concerns eager to scoop up market share that it once railed against
-- say, that of IBM or Microsoft.
You'd never put Apple in the same category as Procter &
Gamble or General Mills. But a large consumer-products company is
what Apple is in the process of becoming. Think of the iPhone as
Apple's Tide or Cheerios. With so many consumers using the product,
the ads can't afford to alienate or offend. They have to urge new
customers to get on board, and they have to spur current fans to
keep on buying -- and to buy even more.
Yet some of that advertising has left Apple aficionados cold.
During the Olympics, the company unfurled several new spots
featuring a young man with a cracking voice -- who sounds an awful
lot like Steven, the "Dude, you're getting a Dell" character from
spots in the early 2000s. Backlash was palpable, with Ken Segall, a
former Apple creative, writing on his blog, "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
Apple's ads featuring celebrities such as Martin Scorsese, Zooey
Deschanel and Samuel L. Jackson using iPhone Siri technology as a
sort of personal assistant have prompted bloggers to ask if the
company were moving in a new direction (and revealed some of Siri's
flaws when users attempted to use dialogue from the commercials on
their own devices).
"It's a post-Steve Jobs Apple," wrote one commenter on a
Mashable story. "I think we need to get used to it." Such opinion
may be in the minority. Advertising Benchmark Index, a company that
studies the effectiveness of specific ads, found the spots worked
and that most respondents liked them.
Even so, both efforts risk alienating people who adopted Apple,
said Charles R. Taylor, a marketing professor at the Villanova
School of Business. Longtime customers love the commitment to
innovation that Apple has always expressed in its advertising. But
they may not be so thrilled about sitting through yet another
commercial full of marketing hard sell.
Why has this happened? It's easy to blame the recent death of
Mr. Jobs, who was famously involved in nearly every aspect of
Apple's advertising from its agency, TBWA/Media Arts Lab.
Now a new generation is calling the shots. Where Mr. Jobs was
known to work hand in hand with TBWA's Lee Clow, now 69, these days
James Vincent, president of the Media Arts Lab, along with Chief
Creative Officer Duncan Millner and his partner, Eric Grunbaum,
guide the advertising. These executives have been involved with
Apple for years. So too has Apple veteran marketing chief Philip
Schiller. Even so, Mr. Clow's diminished presence is not
Mr. Clow and Mr. Vincent did not respond to requests for
comment. An Apple spokesman did not respond to an email seeking
But fans of early Apple advertising need not despair. As the
company tries its hand at disrupting any number of established
industries -- moving from music, perhaps, to such areas as
distribution of TV programming -- it may need to revive its upstart
image. In some cases, Apple may still need to act like the company