Ad pros react to Apple "Genius" campaign

A week ago today, Apple Computer pulled the three-commercial “Genius” television campaign it had debuted in a two-day run the first Olympics weekend. They claimed that this was part of their plan all along — and that business publications and bloggers having made it, in Ad Age‘s words, “The Ads Everyone Hated” played absolutely no role in their decision.

Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

Everyone's a critic.

Well, in the ensuing week, “everyone” has been heard from, and for the most part they hated the campaign, too.

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While YouTube “Likes” have been “actually running slightly higher than ‘Dislikes,'” Thom Forbes reports in Marketing Daily, the spot in which the “Genius” pitches a laundry list of apps that supposedly come built in, “has garnered more negative votes than positive. But tellingly, perhaps, comments have been disabled for all three videos, sparing us the vitriol.”

You don’t disable comments when everyone’s praising your posts.

Weak praise

In addition to YouTube commenters, at least one columnist praised the campaign — faintly.  “I watched all three of the ads, expecting to be appalled,” wrote Henry Blodgett in Business Insider, “And you know what? The ads aren’t dreadful.”

Cincinnati copywriter Mark Aronson sort of agrees. “The ads themselves aren’t bad — not great, but not bad,” he said in a comment on our previous article on the subject.

For Bob Griffith, who writes ads in Denver, the quality of the commercials was more or less irrelevant. “Are the ads beneath Apple’s typically great creative product? Yes,” he posted. “But just as long as the PRODUCTS [his emphasis] continue to be brilliant, I really don’t care how lame the ads are.”

Strong criticism

Paula Lynn, of Who Else Unlimited, characterized the spots as “Not creative and too busy to be informative…Who approved this? Don’t they want to keep…being [the] world’s leading manufacturer of personal computers? Maybe Google has a job opening.”

Mark Hornung, from the Bernard Hodes Group, calls the campaign “Jive. Totally lacks the sophistication and elegance of past campaigns. ‘Mayday’ is silly and implausible. ‘Basically’ is too awful to waste time criticizing. Ditto ‘Labor Day’ spot.”

Critics from within the advertising industry were quick to pinpoint the cause of this campaign’s failure — but there were almost as many probable causes as critics.

Dallas creative Director Tom Freyer’s main problem was that the campaign didn’t live up to an advertising standard that Apple had previously set. “Few contrasts are as glaring as when mediocrity follows brilliance,” he commented.

But Mark Aronson points a finger at the campaign’s basic premise, which he says is

…contrary to Apple’s consistent positioning of the last 28 years. Every other Apple campaign…has promised that your Apple product would empower you, will lift you above the crowd, will endue you with powers far beyond those of mortal men (and women). The “Genius” campaign, by contrast, is a chest-thumper for Apple, not for me, the Apple user. Watch your branding, folks, before someone notices and grabs your spot.

Montreal adman Peter Poletti says, on the other hand, “The real problem is that their chief genius and spokesman is gone. With no suitable personality to replace him, [Apple] will be forced to go back to more mundane advertising.”

“People worried that without Jobs Apple would lose its way,” Hornung adds. “These ads seem to confirm that their fears were well-founded.”

But Bob Griffth begs to differ:

I’d blame their agency as much as the client itself. Takes two to tango, and no doubt TBWA were the ones who originally pitched, executed and produced this campaign.

Steve Jobs may be gone, but TBWA’s been doing Apple adverts long and, yes, brilliantly enought to know sh** from Shinola.

You pay your money and you take your choice.