Tony Hallett's After These Messages: Apple-tease

That fine line between being appealing and being honest...
Written by Tony Hallett, Contributor

That fine line between being appealing and being honest...

There's a series of Apple ads running right now that really catch the eye. They're classic Apple - simple yet stylish. I'm thinking of the iPod MP3 player commercials on TV but also the billboards, which feel like they're everywhere. (Well, all over London at least.)

This is Apple at its best. The company may never achieve a position of real strength within the personal computing business again - certainly not to its 1980s levels - but its recent resurgence has been based on the assured selling of good products used in certain verticals and offerings such as the iPod and iTunes online music service.

This year, silicon.com's Agenda Setters panel of experts even ended up voting Steve Jobs the most influential individual in high-tech, for the reasons mentioned, the embracing of open source (to a degree) and his general all-round staying power.

So it's tempting to say the company is on the up and its confident and bold marketing just brings this home.

However, confident and bold are perhaps not words that would have been used at the Independent Television Committee this week when it took the decision to take off the air ads in the UK describing the Power Mac G5 as "the world's fastest personal computer".

The broadcasting watchdog had received complaints. How could Apple say what it was saying given how hard it really is to measure performance, combinations of hardware and software for different purposes and the speed at which new products come out? That's what some concerned viewers asked, apparently. We can only guess if they work for Wintel rivals.

So the ITC ordered the ad pulled, though different US and UK versions can still be seen at the respective websites.

Did Apple over-step the mark? Quite possibly, though arguably it and others have done much worse in the past, right under the noses of often tech-ignorant regulators.

With consumer-oriented advertising there is always a degree of braggadocio and a service such as iTunes or the iPod player has to come across as cool. Dare I say it but people even put up with a few more half-truths. (And somebody somewhere must have proved it makes a difference if Jeff Goldblum, fresh from Holsten Pils duty, is doing the voiceover.)

But for the business-oriented spiel - and a high-end Mac isn't just for your casual surfer - a bit of funky music and well-crafted tag line isn't quite enough.

It's perhaps the most enduring request we make to advertisers - interest us but don't lie to us. And Apple is not alone in having to tread that line carefully.

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