Apple's latest spots turn on tunes

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Apple Computer's sales are sagging, but it's attempting to blaze its way back by drawing on the star power of musicians such as Lil' Kim and Smash Mouth.

The iconoclastic marketer goes beyond "Think Different" in a recently launched campaign for new iMacs, which can record, mix and burn personal CD music compilations. The effort, by Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., assembles an eclectic group of popular artists including Ziggy Marley, Liz Phair and Barry White to promote iMac's iTune software. ITune enables music aficionados to create their own CDs. The 60-second "Concert" spot, the first of a series running in prime time and cable, features a voiceover: "It's your music-burn it on a Mac." Apple's "Think Different" tag appears at the end.

The company, like other computer marketers, is struggling with slumping demand, and hopes that an emphasis on cool software applications such as iTune will help boost sales. It sold just 308,000 iMacs worldwide in the final quarter of 2000, down 46% from the third quarter and down 56% from the previous fourth quarter.

Apple's fourth-quarter revenue plummeted 57% to $1 billion from a year earlier. It expects revenue for the year ending Sept. 30 to fall about 25% to about $6 billion vs. the previous year. The company has responded by cutting costs and some prices; it cut ad spending in the fourth calendar quarter.

In fact, the company's stock is back to 1987 prices. The stock closed March 15 at $19.69.

Apple declined requests for interviews. Spending on this effort isn't known. Apple spent $281 million on global advertising in the year ended Sept. 30, up 35%, according to securities filings. Mac unit sales for that year increased 32%.

Company Chairman Steve Jobs and longtime partner Lee Clow, TBWA chairman and creative director worldwide, masterminded the new campaign.

Mr. Clow said Apple's new strategy is centered on "Steve's belief" that we "now live in a digital" society and Apple can serve as "the hub" in terms of how consumers organize digital information, whether it's digital music, photographs, videos or information.

Mr. Clow compares the cacophony over music copyrights to Hollywood's initial concerns over home-video recordings.

Mr. Clow notes the artists selected for "Concert" didn't participate in recent Napster litigation. Mr. Jobs is known as a strong defender of intellectual-property rights and protection, but he also realizes, according to Mr. Clow, "digital music is here and it's a reality."

Up next: Ads for Apple's OS X operating system, due later this month. "The ads will be almost newsletter-like, to keep the cognoscenti briefed," according to Mr. Clow. The ads will target loyalists first, then will be deployed to the masses later this year. It's unclear whether TV is in the plan.

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