There's no doubt that Apple has become one of the most popular brands around the globe - iPod, iMac, iPhone, iTunes. I'm sure you've heard of them. Likewise, you probably know about Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" TV commercials and can spot an iPod billboard on a moving bus from blocks away.
Over the past three years, Apple has spent just shy of $1.3 billion on advertising - $486 million of it in 2008, according a line-item buried in the company's Nov. 4 10-K filing and spotted by sharp-eyed BNET editor Lindsay Blakely. That's far more than the $300 million that Microsoft is spending to counter the ads - a campaign that got most of its early publicity because the commercials were so bad. (Seinfeld. Gates. You remember, right?) Apple's ad spend in 2007 was $467 million and, in 2006, was $338 million.
Last month, TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld guessed that Apple's ad budget was probably somewhere around 10 percent of its SG&A (selling, general and administrative) expenses, which was on track to reach $3.5 billion. The matter came up in a blog post he wrote about the latest Apple TV commercial, the one where "PC" is dividing up a stack of money - most of it going toward the Windows ad campaign and only a small amount going toward fixing Vista. (YouTube video below) Schonfeld called it hypocritical of Apple because its own ad spend was just as massive (and now we know it to be even bigger.)
I don't think it's hypocritical, though. If Apple can afford to spend almost a half-billion dollars on an ad campaign and still continue to beat Wall Street's quarterly estimates, launch breakthrough products that keep customers longing for more and generate an enormous amount of unsolicited blog buzz (Guilty!) then I say more power to them.
Windows XP was around for something like 6 years before Vista came on the scene - and then it was a nightmare. And so far, Microsoft's $300 million hasn't been spent very wisely - Jerry Seinfeld got $10 million of it for those two ads with Bill Gates and the "I'm A PC" and "Without Walls" campaigns haven't really said anything worth noting.