Stuart Cheshire on Apple Advertising

Apple's television advertising continues to stress that Macs are easy to use. Does anyone not know that already? Ask anyone looking around a computer shop, and they'll say "Macs are easier to use but PCs cost less and have much more software."

That's the perception that Apple has got to attack.

For example, consider the recent "Crandles" advert.

The "Crandles" advert shows a father trying to set up his Windows PC so his child can play "Dinosaurs". He is unable to make it work, and the child goes to the Crandles because "they have a Mac."

What a useless advert!

Wait a minute, before you click the "back button". I know every Mac enthusiast in the world and every Apple employee is cheering applause for that advert.

If you're a rabid Macintosh supporter, just for a moment try to pretend that you're not. Let's try to think about the advert objectively. Pretend that you are a random uninformed member of the public who's thinking about buying a computer.

For advertising to be effective, the viewer has to identify with the character portrayed on the screen. They have to look at the character, and think, "That's me," or at least, "That's someone like me."

Now consider the "Dinosaurs" advert again. Remember that you've agreed to put your Macintosh fanaticism on hold for five minutes. (If you haven't, then you can't play, because you can't possibly identify yourself with any character who would even look at a PC without sneering.)

What's the story of the "Dinosaurs" advert? The guy can't make his PC work. Is that because no one can make a PC work? Clearly not. Millions of people the world over obviously have no trouble at all making their PC work, or else how come they outsell Macs 10:1? (Keep those Mac prejudices under control -- we're talking perception here, not "reality".)

So what's the reason the guy on the television can't make his PC work? It must be because he's just dumb. Am I dumb? No. Will I have trouble making my PC work? No. Should I buy a Macintosh? No. Should *he* have bought a Macintosh? Hell, yes, PC's are obviously too hard for him. (We as Macintosh supporters know that Macs are easier to use. The PC world knows that too, they just phrase it differently: "Macs are for idiots." Hang around computer shops, and you can hear salesmen say it to customers all the time.)

D'oh! Own-goal, Apple. Everyone knows Macs are for idiots, and you just reinforced the message.

Remember, real men drive stick-shift, because they're better than automatics. The common perception is often that "harder" = "better".

So what should Apple have done?

It is such a tiny change to the advert that it is tragic.

The character shouldn't be a dumb redneck who can't read the manual to find out what a DIP switch is and hence fails to make his PC work. He should be an intelligent professional who succeeds easily. The point is not that he can't make the PC work. The point is that he speeds through the tasks with superhuman speed, *and it still takes him hours*. It may be easy for him, but it's not fast.

That's what I think the Apple message should be: Smart people choose to use Macs not because they *couldn't* make a PC work, but because they have better things to do with their time than be amateur electical engineers.

How about some adverts that address the Mac's other perceived weaknesses -- high price and lack of software:

1. Price:

Two men on aeroplane. Man A in aisle seat gets out PC. Man B in window seat gets out PowerBook.

Man A sneers: "Ha! Bet you paid loads for that and it doesn't even have a PCMCIA slot. See, here I have a Fax modem, only $300, an Ethernet card, only $300, a video card, only $200, a sound card, only $200, a SCSI card, only $300, (fumbling with a handful of PCMCIA cards, dropping a couple on the floor) and I can plug in any one I want (presses eject button, another card flies out, sliding across the tray table and falling on floor). I've heard you can even get sound digitizing cards for recording. [The ad should use current prices for all these things.]

Man B: "Actually, my computer cost less than yours..." [you'll have to pick the models carefully here to make this true, or if that's not possible, change the wording to "about the same" or something.] Man points to indicate apertures on front of PowerBook screen "and it has stereo speakers, CD quality sound, microphone for recording..." turns powerbook 90 degrees counterclockwise to show back of powerbook towards Man A and camera. Points to each socket in turn while speaking. "speaker jack, microphone jack, serial ports, SCSI, Ethernet, video, fax modem. All built in." Rotates computer back so keybaord faces him again.

Man A: "Well, if you wanted to plug cards in, what would you do then?"

Man B: "I'd get the optional card bay." (Tapping front left of the case, indicating where it would go.)

Man A: "Oh."

Fade to black. Apple. The power to crush other business travellers (or whatever).

2. Choice of software:

Two men on aeroplane. Man A in aisle seat gets out PC. Man B in window seat gets out PowerBook.

Man A sneers: "Why do you use that thing? There's much more software for the PC. I have 17 different word processors here right now. I use this one for letters, and this one for reports, and this one when I want to use different fonts, and this one when I want to include charts or diagrams, and this one when I'm on the network." With each "this one" he pulls a thick manual from the bag under his seat and stacks in on the tray table, making a big pile.

Man B: "Actually all Mac word processors do all those things, so I just chose the one I liked best."

Man A: "What, you mean you like using your computer?

Fade to black. Apple. The power to crush other business travellers (or whatever).

Final comment from man A: "So where are all your manuals?"

3. Repeat for spreadsheets, databases, etc.

The ease of use is still heavily stated, but the primary emphasis is attacking the other two perceived Mac shortcomings.

Update: I originally came up with the idea for the "Men on aeroplane" scripts when I was working as a summer intern at Apple in the Summer of 1994 (and I sent them to Apple's marketing department where they were, of course, ignored). What amazes me is that now, all this time later, most PC laptops still don't come with microphones built-in. In fact, on PC laptops, CD-quality 16-bit stereo sound is still considered a very high-end feature. It continually amazes me when I realize just how far ahead Macintosh computers are.

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