Apple launched a new corporate image campaign last night, a change of gear from the onslaught of product-specific ads it has relied on in recent years.
The tagline for the campaign is “Designed by Apple in California,” and it is intended to reassure consumers that if they want beautiful products that work, Apple is it.
But Bloomberg’s Peter Burrows just published a brutal analysis of the company’s advertising under Philip W. Schiller, senior vice president of marketing.
Apple spends $1 billion a year on advertising, Bloomberg reports, but the company’s ad agency, TBWA/Media Arts Lab can’t get “clarity” about what Schiller wants. He shoots down their ideas, and spends millions of dollars on ads that never see the light of day.
In part this is not Apple, or Schiller’s fault. The company has entered a period in which consumers openly question its dominance. Apple’s products no longer sell themselves. Samsung and HTC both produce beautiful, capable phones that make Apple’s iPhones look pedestrian.
Apple has lost its “groove,” Bloomberg says. One example: It ran, and then swiftly cancelled, an ad campaign about Apple’s genius Bar employees during the 2012 Olympics.
But it is this section of the story, which describes the inefficient way that Apple creates new ads, that ought to shock observers. Apple is still creating and cancelling new ads after they have been made — a shocking level of waste that wouldn’t be tolerated at a corporation that wasn’t awash with $144 billion of cash on its balance sheet:
For years, Media Arts Lab executives, including James Vincent, traveled to Cupertino from Los Angeles most Wednesdays to discuss ideas and get [founder Steve] Jobs’s feedback, people said.
Since his death, the meetings are run by Philip W. Schiller, senior vice president of marketing, which has meant less clarity about what the company wants its ads to say, people familiar with Apple’s advertising said.
Once Jobs had made a decision, no one at Media Arts Lab argued for long. Now, its creative staff becomes frustrated more often when Schiller shoots down ideas, they said.
… Media Arts Lab, created in 2006, goes to extraordinary lengths to keep its demanding customer happy. Apple spends millions of dollars on ads that don’t even run, people familiar with the matter said. Jobs said he couldn’t judge promising ideas based on sketches on poster-like storyboards, they said, so he had Media Arts Lab produce almost-ready TV ads, complete with music and celebrity voice-overs. That continues under Schiller, these people said.
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