Apple appears to be going through a wrenching change in terms of its marketing. It appears to be in the process of ditching its relationship with TBWA/Media Arts Lab, the ad agency created at founder Steve Jobs’ behest to serve Apple exclusively. (We covered that dramatic and highly personal split in more detail here.)
Instead, Apple is now making its own ads. And boy, does it show.
The new ads are dreamy, thoughtful and revolve around inspiring scenes from everyday life. They seem to ask the viewer, “why isn’t your life as cool as the Apple consumers shown in this ad?”
We prepared this then-and-now look at the way Apple’s ads have changed since it began to ditch its most famous marketing resource.
One obvious thing to note: TBWA’s ads are all really distinctive and memorable. You may not like them, but they sure stand out. Apple’s own ads … not so much. An optimist might describe them as subtle. They almost blend into the background unless you’re looking for them.
Here’s a small taste of the new iPhone 5S ad, which is about health. Note that the phone itself hardly appears in the ad:
The old ads, all from TBWA, are decidedly different. Mostly, they revolved around the benefits of the products themselves. The original iPhone campaign just showed the iPhone, nothing else. Remember this?
More recently, Apple’s ads have begun to feature poetry, suggesting that an iPad will help you “contribute a verse” to life. The imagery has been stirring and graceful, but again — you don’t see much of the iPad:
The classic “Get a Mac” campaign for the Macbook laptop line was simply a list of product benefits written in the form of a series of jokes between comedian John Hodgman and actor Justin Long. People loved them. Viewers were sad when Apple dumped the campaign (because laptops aren’t that important to Apple’s business anymore).
Apple relaunched its corporate image last year around a manifesto, “Designed by Apple in California.” It was a thoughtful treatise on the importance of design and whether products “deserve to exist.” These are big ideas inside the company, but do ordinary gadget buyers care? Again, you’ll notice that the phones themselves are only displayed as incidental props in the action:
The “Think Different” campaign, which relaunched the iMac in the late 1990s, compared Apple’s machines to the truly revolutionary thinkers of the 20th Century, such as Einstein and Ghandi. It was a manifesto for Apple’s resurgence at the time, and it worked. It didn’t show the product, but it did show some iconic imagery of widely known personalities:
The Winner? TBWA (probably)
First, it should go without saying that Apple’s products sell themselves. You could scribble an iPhone ad on the back of a cardboard box and Apple would still sell more phones than any other company. So the advertising is a marginal part of Apple’s sales effort.
However, one might say that all of Apple’s old ads had one thing in common: A strong personality. Whether the product itself was the personality, or whether it was Einstein or John Hodgman, there was a sharp focus on a recognizeable, relatable persona.
Apple’s new advertising is elegant and detailed. It’s harder to say that it has a personality, though.
See the ads in their entirety here: