Yet Another Apple Commercial Flops With Viewers

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The latest in a series of Apple commercials – one boasting about how good their products make people feel – is making people feel…bored. In Ace Metrix advertising effectiveness research, the latest spot scored below the other 25 commercials that Apple’s aired this year, below industry average and way below the brand’s earlier advertising, Ad Age Digital reported June 27.

Adding insult to injury, it even scored lower than commercials for Microsoft’s Surface tablet. And when you can’t do better than a bunch of people mindlessly dancing around, like in a ’90s Pringles “When you pop, you can’t stop” commercial, you’re in trouble.

That may even be understating things. On the YouTube page where the commercial’s posted, someone disabled comments – and that’s never a good sign.

A televised vision statement

The minute-long commercial shows people using Apple products in various real (e.g., kids using iPads in a classroom) and fanciful (e.g., a couple under an umbrella in the rain taking selfies with an iPhone) situations, while a voice-over recites corporate vision statements (e.g., “We spend a lot of time on a few great things.”)

In Ace Metrix overall scoring, 542 is the category average. Past Apple campaigns often topped 700. The original Surface spot scored 674. Since May, eight Samsung ads have averaged over 600. In contrast, the two most recent iPhone commercials came in at 530 and 537, while the new corporate manifesto scored only 489.

It did particularly poorly with men over 21. Viewers said the music was “sad” and that the spot itself, at 60 seconds, was too long.

But for all its talkiness, it communicates very little. Its 542 “Information” score is lower than the computer hardware average of 603. It’s also considerably lower than the 757 a recent Samsung Galaxy S4 phone commercial earned for showing how you could answer a call without touching the phone.

Which leads us to the commercial’s real failing.

Show it, don’t say it

There’s a saying in  the advertising business: “If you have to call it something, it ain’t.” In other words, if it’s evident, you don’t have to say it, and if you have to say it, it isn’t evident. So if you have to say your products are great, people are going to believe they probably aren’t; if you say your products make people feel good, people will conclude they probably don’t. That’s because you’re talking at them, not to them – in the first-person plural (we and us) and with unsupported assertions and generalities, no less.

Past Apple commercials persuaded people of both points without ever mentioning either. They did it by tone of voice, attitude, casting (as in the I’m a Mac campaign, which didn’t even show a product), concepts that talked to people, and other production values.

“It feels like Apple’s groping a bit,” says Edward Boches, former chief creative officer at A-list ad agency Mullen and present professor of advertising at Boston University. They were “never a company that bragged about itself,” but “[i]n a manifesto ad, it’s hard not to come across as self indulgent,” he adds. “And even though it suggests the wonderful things Apple products can do, the ad lacks joy.”

That’s why there’s a 211-point gap between Apple’s newest commercial and its older ones.

The irony is, it’s possible to make a very engaging and persuasive point about computers without a single word of voice-over, as this French commercial does. Apple could do well to follow the technique, even though there’s no way they’d copy the message.

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