Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

Summary: Even for an enthusiast who's carried the torch for Apple for 25 years, the company's latest round of TV advertising comes off as arrogant and insufferable.

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To say that I'm a career Apple person is an understatement. But I have to say, Apple's new TV spots for the iPhone and the iPad make me sick.

I've used Macs since 1985 and I have invested the vast bulk of my professional life as an Apple expert - first in tech support, later in IT, and then as a reporter and editor focused on all things Apple.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was one of those Mac users. One of the "round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently" that Richard Dreyfuss talked about in Apple's "Think Different" ad. If you cut me, I bled Apple colors. I'd use every opportunity to evangelize the platform.

I'm sorry about that, seriously. I've grown up.

I still use Macs, but I'm no longer a jerk about it.

All this preamble is simply to reenforce that Apple's new TV spots for the iPhone 4 and the iPad should have me cheering, but instead rub me the wrong way. (If you don't watch TV, or if you have a DVR and skip the ads, you can visit Apple's Web site and see them here.)

Because even for someone who has been thoroughly saturated by all things Apple over the years, the spots come off wrong.

Intones the announcer:

"If you don't have an iPhone, you don't have the App Store. So you don't have the world's largest selection of apps that are this easy to find and this easy to download right to your phone. So it can be almost anything, like a boarding pass. Or do almost anything, like pay for your coffee. Yep, well, if you don't have an iPhone, you don't have an iPhone."

Yes, the recursion is irritating. But it's not so much the actual words that are used. The delivery is condescending, smarmy and self-righteous. In other words, all the things regular folks absolutely hate about Apple and the cult of personality that's surrounded it for so many years.

Apple's certainly emphasizing some of the iPhone's strengths in that ad. I just wish they didn't have to act so smug about it.

Even the Mac vs PC ads starring John Hodgman and Justin Long weren't this insufferable. At least they were infused with humor.

Apple's "If You Asked" spot for the iPad is where absolutely I draw the line. This time, Apple tapped actor and activist Peter Coyote.

"If you ask a parent, they might call it intuitive. If you ask a musician, they might call it inspiring. To a doctor, it's groundbreaking. To a CEO, it's powerful. To a teacher, it's the future. If you ask a child, she might call it magic. And if you asked us, we'd say it's just getting started."

All this happens while iPads, as if by magic, display sequences of imagery and charts and graphs choreographed to the narration.

It's a series of meaningless observations strung together, presumably to infuse viewers with some sense of the iPad's mystique. It's high-level. It's also obnoxious and insufferable.

More than anything, I wish Apple would just cut the crap. Stop trying to tell me how magical the iPad is. As it stands now, Apple isn't doing any better a job of communicating what the iPad is than the Android tablet makers are - and they're miserable at it. And as this market matures and populates, that could be a real problem.

I know that Apple and Steve Jobs tend to bring out a wide reaction in people, especially readers of this site. Say what you want, but the company has done a phenomenal job over the years of developing products that people want and marketing messages to help sell them.

It's just a shame that we see, at least at this latest turn, Apple falling into its own hype by producing flatulent, arrogant ads that tell us that we should like something just because it's Apple.

Sorry, Apple. Even when you're on top of the world, a little humility is in order.

Topics: Smartphones, Apple, Hardware, iPad, Mobility

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133 comments
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  • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

    You've got a serious problem.
    palavering
    • He does not understend what Apple is trying to convay

      @palavering
      This is advertising, and as smug as it is, Apple is enticing others to be as smug as they are.

      If a person purchases an iPhone as they wish to feel as smug and superior over others, or to avoid the "embarrassment" they feel when others look smugly down on them for not purchasing an Apple branded item, then Apple has done it's job well, as they sold a product and made a profit.

      People claim that "Apple gets it" in terms of how their products operate, yet they do not understand that it is not the product that Apple gets, it's the marketing and psychology that "they get".

      If you listen carefully to the adds they are in truth attempting to "shame" people into purchasing their products with the "Then you just do not have what everyone else has" mentality, as "we have this so we are better" attitude.

      It is what marketing is all about.

      :|
      Tim Cook
      • I agree...

        @Mister Spock Indeed, a race to the bottom of the scum puddle. Every time I see those ads I cuss them out.
        I only have an ipod classic, there is nothing like it, they can be smug about that, it's the gold standard.
        The iphone, awesome hardware, crap OS, android is lightyears ahead. Tablets, have no value in my world, just a gizmo to have...
        reapur
      • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

        @Mister Spock I know all the haters out there are still clinging to the hopeless belief that Apple's success is solely due to marketing but it only gets you so far. If you can't back it up with the hardware/user experience then you end up with a churn rate that Apple does not experience and FAR lower satisfaction rates. As far as the ads themselves, if you put too much faith in what companies say in ads then you don't need to be reading a tech site.
        non-biased
    • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

      @palavering I agree, Peter Cohen, got up on the wrong side of the bed. Apple is doing as other companies would do. I see no lies in their adds, there is NO VAPOR here. Why not blow their own horn? It's an ADDVERT for their product.

      Commercial written by Cohen for Apple: "Oh, we have this device, iPad, and it's pretty cool, we think. Come to the Apple store and try it out, you will be satisfied."
      danilko1
      • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

        @dcmorrow
        <Commercial written by Cohen for Apple: "Oh, we have this device, iPad, and it's pretty cool, we think. Come to the Apple store and try it out, you will be satisfied." >

        If commercials were like that, I may not have turned off my cable two years ago.
        mlashinsky@...
    • Yes, Peter is surprisingly bitter and odd about these advertisments

      @palavering:

      How adequate it is from him to critique Apple's attempt to differentiate actual iPhone from countless clones which advertise themselves as if they are real thing?

      Of course, Apple has to state what is different about their phone. Nothing to do with smugness or whatever since Apple talks only about actual unique advantages.

      And, of course, iPad campaign is way better communicate to potential viewers than Adroid's robots; it shows real people, real situations that strike on point.
      DDERSSS
    • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

      He certainly has, what a nonsense piece. Apple are spot on with their iPhone Ad. With consumers being fooled into thinking Android counterfeit iPhones are the real thing Apple should be on the offensive and extolling the product's clear advantages wherever possible.

      McD
      McDaveH
    • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

      @palavering - I agree with Peter on the iPhone ad, since you can do anything with most any other phone platform that you can do with an iPhone. So Android Market or Windows Phone Marketplace or Blackberry AppWorld don't have the number of Apps that the iOS AppStore has - they're exactly the same thing.

      @Peter Cohen - The iPad ad, OTOH, gets the point across perfectly - the iPad is whatever you want it to be, from a book to a medical image reader. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see a future iPad app with storm chasers (Radarscope), someone watching it on a nightstand (cable/sat TV, Netflix, or Hulu+), or any of the other things that iPad and iPad 2 can do currently.
      Champ_Kind
    • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

      @palavering <br><br>I think he does too. First of all I love when people write about how they used to be jerks. Chances are they still are, which is pretty obvious in this case.<br><br>I admit the iPhone ad is a little condescending but if you asked me why I would say it's a response to all the obnoxious Android users and Apple haters who go on and on about how "closed" Apple is and how Android is so much better etc... I have met so many of those people but I have yet to met an Apple guy who is even remotely as annoying. I guess I never met Peter Cohen in his younger years...<br><br>I think he's totally wrong about the iPad commercials though. I have the iPad 2 and I really think it is amazing and has very much changed the way I interact with computers.<br><br>His smarmy article makes me sick. Seems he hasn't changed a bit after all.
      itsmenyc
      • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

        @itsmenyc [i]I have met so many of those people but I have yet to met an Apple guy who is even remotely as annoying.[/i]
        I have met a couple of those annoying Apple people but it?s been probably about 15 years since the last one I came across. On the contrary like you I have, in the past year or so, come across more than a few annoying over the top Android users. The funny thing about almost every single one of them is that they were 100% going off marketing hype. They don?t have a clue what open source is, what makes iOS closed or how to do much more than check email, surf and text on their Android phones. They all fell for the hype to hate Apple and attack iOS devices even though I do more in a week with my iPhone than they will ever be able to figure out on their Android phones. This isn?t something against Android at all, it just that the attitude that all the Apple haters have screamed about is now coming from the other side. I actually came across one person that said he hated the iPhone but loved Android and I asked why, his response was the cost of the reconnection fee. WTF does that have to do with the phone? If you don?t pay your bill you will get disconnected and have to pay a reconnection fee to the carrier no matter who it is and what OS your phone runs. Here is a thought, pay your damn bill and you won?t have to worry about it.
        non-biased
    • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

      @palavering <br><br>Very true. First of all I love it when people write that they used to be jerks. Chances are they still are which is obviously the case here.<br><br>I admit that the iPhone ads are a little condescending but I think they are a response to all those obnoxious Android fanbois and Apple haters who go on and on about how "closed" Apple is an how much better Android is etc... I have met more of my share of these guys but have yet to met an Apple fan who is even remotely as annoying. I guess I never got to meet the younger Peter Cohen.<br><br>In so far as the iPad ads I totally disagree. I have the iPad 2 and it has completely changed the way I interact with computers. So by definition it is revolutionary, just as the iPhone before it.

      As a general rule I would say that people who have such a violent reaction to Apple should look in a mirror. It says far more about them than it does about Apple.
      itsmenyc
    • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

      @palavering

      I totally agree with you about this guy having a problem. It's called advertising. ALL companies BRAG about their products when they advertise. I also don't believe that you are a mac user.
      vswilliams
  • Apple (Jobs) and humility?

    Perhaps too much to expect. When they get off this wild ride (and they will one day) they will have to eat some crow.

    I am not really too interested or concerned either way. I have yet to own any Apple products whatsoever. I do not have a need for them and Apple can get their profit margins from someone else. As long as there are choices, I am happy.
    Economister
    • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

      [i]I am not really too interested or concerned either way.[/i]

      Are you kidding? You're on here bashing them all the time.

      [i]I have yet to own any Apple products whatsoever.[/i]

      Which explains your lack of knowledge about them.

      [i]I do not have a need for them and Apple can get their profit margins from someone else. As long as there are choices, I am happy.[/i]

      I fully agree with you there. So what's the problem?
      ScorpioBlue
    • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

      @Economister I agree about Jobs and humility never meeting, but I disagree on Apple someday eating crow. There will always be Apple juicers to keep them going and their profits plus cash make them as durable as cockroaches.

      What really happened in this blog is Peter has finally clearly seen the main thing which has always made 90% of people choose Windows machines - Apple commercials. People hate smug narcissism . They are repelled by cult-like behavior. They do not like in-your-face evangelism performed by zealots. The Mac vs PC ads sounded like an ignorant brat calling potential customers "stupid-heads." Those commercials might have made current owners feel better about their religion, but it drove away potential switchers.

      I have had a Mac for a couple years now, which I use for music. I actually wanted to buy a Mac for many years before that but couldn't bring myself to buy one because of my hatred for those demonstrably ignorant and equally arrogant Mac vs PC commercials. Even my wife watched those ads and asked, "Is everyone who owns a Mac really that clueless about PCs?" I wondered that myself.

      Unlike Peter, I actually think the new ads are an improvement. While the new ads still sound like Apple breaking their arms to pat themselves on the back in narcissistic ecstasy, they are at least finally showing what the devices can do, rather than calling their potential customers stupid. That's a step in the right direction and has contributed to the success of iOS devices. Let's hope Apple continues to be more intelligent about their ads. Maybe they can work on Jobs' product introductions next. I can't watch them without laughing every time he proclaims something "revolutionary."
      BillDem
      • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

        I agree w/ you mostly Bill - you're right on. But the ads that are recently running on TV definitely come off as "smug" and arrogant. "If you don't have an iPhone - well, then you don't have an iPhone" - which implies that you are stupid or poor (or both).
        ptyson@...
      • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

        @BillDem First, some of you people really need to lighten up on watching ads. If a company isn't trying to boost their product, no matter what it is, in ads then they are not advertising. If you believe everything you see in ads or take it to heart then you need to step away from the TV.

        Second, do you honestly think that they ads have absolutely anything to do with the 90% marketshare of Windows machines? I know you typed it but really, you believe that statement? If you do I have a bridge I can sell you and if need be will create an ad for it as well :-)
        non-biased
    • Mac vs PC commercials were brilliant

      They came at a time when Apple was starting to grow and make it's mark out there. It certainly didn't hurt their sales.<br><br>And I never took it personally. I used to see those commercials and at the time, and I was a PC guy! <br><br>I didn't look like that fat dork in the commercials, though. lol... :D <br><br>I suspect most (PC) people who hated those commercials actually looked & acted like the PC guy and it hit too close to home. That's what it's really about. Isn't it, fellas?<br><br>more lol... :D
      ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Apple's smarmy TV ads make me sick: A fan's lament

        @ScorpioBlue I'm a PC/Win advocate. I think the "I'm a Mac - I'm a PC" commercials were brilliant and funny as hell.
        sackbut