“To Ad or Not to Ad”? Apple’s Olympics Commercials, Pt. 1 (IPhone 3GS Jailbreak)

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Have you ever seen a commercial come across your screen for a few minutes that leaves you thinking to yourself, “That was so not funny”? If so, you are not alone. There are lots of commercials that do that to me; I watch them and I feel as if I have lost IQ points by the time the commercial is over (thank goodness, the ending always comes quickly!).


As always, Apple provided some advertisements earlier this past week for summer Olympics fans to enjoy. Sadly, the advertisements were not humorous (in the slightest) and made television viewers wonder whether or not Apple had lost its touch. To view the commercials online, you can click here.


The first commercial, called “Mayday,” is an expression used to refer to a need for help. It is used in war movies when pilots have an engine problem that hurls the plane towards earth, or EMS workers who need to call in to a hospital for backup in the case of an accident or natural disaster. The term is often used together at least three times (if not more in some cases), and is French for “help me” (Fr. m’aider). In this case, the one in need of help is not an accident or natural disaster victim but a man in row 3B who “wants to make his wife an iMovie” for he and his wife’s wedding anniversary. The emergency is supposedly that the plane will “land in 27 minutes.” The guy seems to think “We’re not gonna make it,” although the Apple Genius assures him that the iMovie can be made before the plane lands. He is in need of technical aid, not medical aid. Still, this is supposedly the “genius” play on words of this genius ad. The so-called “Apple Genius” helps the guy with his iMovie, and then receives a new call to help someone else in row 21F.


I think the first thing that stands out about the commercial that you have to hate is that the airplane captain speaks on the intercom, “This is your captain. Is there an Apple Genius on board?” The guy in the back stands up with his blue Apple shirt on and says, “I’m a genius.” This is the first turnoff of the commercials. Are Apple employees the only geniuses? No, of course not. This alone places the ad on terrible footing. The second problem with the advertisement is that the guy in row 3B wants to make an iMovie, something that is easy to make on a MacBook. I own a 2011 MacBook Pro and do not need to read instructions in order to produce an iMovie. The ad shows that Apple’s employees are the “geniuses” while those in need (the airplane customers) are somewhat on the ditzy side when it comes to technical matters of any kind.


Consumers are not as incapable of technical knowledge as they were twenty years ago. There was once a time in which consumers came to an electronics store needing help on everything from the brand of product they wanted to how to compare products that seem equal in capability. Even cell phone customers are smarter today than they have ever been; the average customer knows a thing or two about smartphones that would astound the typical Best Buy or Apple employee. After all, the World Wide Web has made knowledge available “worldwide.” If the guy in row 3B wanted to make a movie, all he needed to do was take his MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, go to google.com, type in “how to make an iMovie” on the Google search engine, and click “search.” The fact that Apple made such a commercial shows how far from the times the company is when it comes to the knowledge of the average consumer.


The next ad, titled “Basically,” is all about a play on the word “basically.” A man tells the Apple Genius, “I basically just got a Mac myself.”


Apple Genius: What do you mean “basically”?


Consumer: “Basically, it looks like a Mac.”


AG: “Great. And it came loaded with all the great apps like iPhoto, iMovie, Garage Band…not ringing a bell, huh?”


Consumer: “No.”
AG: “Who sold this to you?”


Consumer: “He did [pointing to a man at an average computer/tv store]. Said he’s basically an Apple Genius.”


AG: “No.”


Consumer: “So, this is nothing like a Mac [pointing to his new computer]?”


AG: “Basically, not…notta…no [Apple Genius shakes his head in disagreement].”

The word “basically” is used here to compare MacBooks to other computers. Apple’s ad proclaims the following: “Basically, the core features of all computers are the same as Macs; however, when it comes to their features, all other computers are ‘nothing like a Mac’.” The goal of the commercial was to show that all computers can seem like a Mac on the outside and the Mac can seem as though it is an ordinary computer. When you pull away the exterior, however, and experiment with the computer, the MacBook has so much more to offer than its competitors (iPhoto, iMovie, Garage Band, and other applications). This is to say that Apple computers leave the others in the dust. This remains debatable, considering that Apple computers (which were once touted as virus-free), experienced a Trojan virus outbreak that affected 600,000 computers within the last year. In response to the Trojan virus outbreak as well as other security issues with MacBooks, Apple took down its “our computers do not get viruses” claim on its page titled “Why You’ll Love a Mac.” The commercial sounds good in this regard until you examine the events of this past year with Apple computers. Suddenly, this Genius Ad falls back on Apple’s head: apparently, MacBooks are “basically” other computers—and other computers are “basically” MacBooks.


To add fuel to the fire, Apple made two terrible claims: 1) the average consumer cannot tell the difference between a MacBook and other computers, and 2) the average electronic store salesman cannot tell the difference between MacBooks and other computers. These two claims will be discussed in the next post. Stay tuned.

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