The Apple brand and its TV ad problem: Where is the light, where is the tunnel?

This Kat commented in March 2013 on sister blog, IP Finance, about the Samsung challenge to Apple's "cool" factor ("Apple v Samsung: The War over 'Cool'") here. Based on some anecdotal observations ("evidence" perhaps being too strong a word), this Kat wondered whether Apple is at risk of losing its preeminent position as the "coolest brand on the planet." More metric-based support for this suggestion appeared in the June 27 article by Peter Burrows on entitled "Apple's TV Ads Touting Company Values Flop With Viewers", here.

According to the article, Apple launched the ad in question on June 10, here, it being the 26th Apple TV ad to run this year. The 60-second ad features school kids with iPad tablets. Against this background, a voice describes the company's product-design goals or, as described in the article, "an actor reads the company's corporate philosophy." How well has the ad, called "Designed by Apple in California", done? Let's have the numbers speak for themselves. Based on a survey carried out by Ace Metrix, Inc., which evaluated ad effectiveness through a survey on 500 or more viewers, the following results were obtained:
1. The ad scored the lowest of all the TV ads run by the company this year, earning an overall rating of 489 under the system used. This result is below the industry average of 542 and far lower than the most successful Apple ad campaigns in the past, which often scored above 700.

2. On the subcategory of "Information", the ad had a score of 528 as opposed to with an industry-wide average of 603. By comparison, a recent Samsung ad for the Galaxy S4 phone, highlighting the feature of touchless call functionality, scored a scorching 757 on the same measure. Indeed, since May, Samsung has racked up eight ads with a score over 600.

3. The new ad scored less well with male rather than female viewers. It scored particularly low with males over 21 years of age.

4. Lest Kat readers think that these low results are a one-off, the article reports that ads described as "similar" in approach with respect to the iPhone's capabilities as a camera and music player device also posted relatively lacklustre results, with results of 560 and 537, respectively.
The article recites various reasons for the failure of the ad: (i) "[t]he company is moving away from upbeat ads promoting product features toward ones that identify it as a reliable provider of products"; (ii) Per Professor of |Advertising Edward Boches, "[i]n a manifesto ad, it's hard not to come across as self indulgent; (iii) "the ad lacks joy;"; (iv) the ad is too long; and (v) further referring to Professor Boches' observations, the ad's reference to the State of California is "inappropriately political", suggesting that Apple is not a Korean company.
It is above this Kat's pay grade to comment authoritatively on Apple's recent malaise, including the precipitous drop in its Apple stock price (down 44% since its record high In September 2012). Still, one does not need to be expert to be aware that the Apple brand seems to be drifting to the wrong side of the "what have you done for me lately" tracks, much to the melancholy of the owners of Apple devices. As the article recites, Professor Boches describes the current stumbling of the Apple brand with a heavy heart, [i]t feels like Apple is groping a bit", while characterizing himself as a "huge fan" of Apple.

It seems to this Kat that no mere corporate mortal (sorry for the mixed metaphor) can be expected to come up continuously with the next world-beating product, especially one which at the same time both cannibalizes its current product hit while building on past success with that product (think iPod to iPhone to iPad). In attempting to do so, Apple, and the Apple brand, is operating in unchartered waters. To the extent that the Apple brand rests on the continuation of this scenario, it is fighting the notion of regression to the mean. Sooner or later, everyone retreats a bit (or a more than bit) from the extremes of a population tail to the centre. The Apple brand may be more sensitive than most other brands to this phenomenon.
The Apple brand and its TV ad problem: Where is the light, where is the tunnel? The Apple brand and its TV ad problem: Where is the light, where is the tunnel? Reviewed by Neil Wilkof on Friday, June 28, 2013 Rating: 5


  1. I'm not a fanboi, nor am I rabidly anti-Apple (I have an iPod Classic and an iPad Mini, and the rest of my family accounts for an iPad, iPod Touch and two iPhones). The first time I saw this ad on TV I thought: "these people have totally lost the plot, and/or all sense of perspective about themselves and their products". In fact, it made me gag a little, and has donne again every time I have seen it since.

    SteveJ must be fairly birlin' ("spinning")

  2. v

    its a great ad IMO. If Samsung's tacky ads do well in these surveys Id question the surveys.

  3. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I still haven't seen the ad, but Apple has run several double-page "Designed by Apple in California" ads in the local paper. They're incomprehensible. Perhaps some subversive writer was intending to cause the reader to think of a second line: "Made by Foxconn in China" - nah, surely not.


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