Apple’s Underwhelming Ads

February 25th, 2013

Ken Segall:

No matter what brand I’m working with, technology or otherwise, it’s astounding how many times I hear marketing people cite the Apple example to make a point. Apple’s advertising history is as famous as its products.

But something’s changed.

After watching the latest batch of iPad ads, I agree. The ads aren’t bad—but they aren’t at all compelling, either. They’re just there, easy to ignore. Perhaps their intention is simply to remind people about the iPad. I don’t know.

Of course, that may simply be a consequence of Apple being at the top of the industry and because they have nothing new to introduce right now. The original iPad Mini ad was particularly excellent, but didn’t deviate at all from the show-the-product style Apple’s used extensively since releasing the iPhone in 2007. So it could just be these were two mediocre ads in Apple’s long-running advertising strategy to show off what the iPad can do rather than make concept ads.

That could be the case, too. Segall points out, though, that Samsung’s ad strategy has been very successful in stirring things up and getting attention. He seems to think that Apple needs to respond in some way, which I’m not sure of. I don’t think Apple can win at that game, because responding—no matter how oblique—will be read as Apple being afraid of the underdog.

Rather, Apple needs to continue making great products, and improving what isn’t very good—parts of the software. iCloud’s syncing needs a lot of work, Messages is a mess in OS X, Siri’s lagging behind Google’s efforts in many ways, and Passbook—although filled with incredible potential—is remarkably confusing to figure out how to use.

The original iPhone was an incredible product not just because of what it did, but because it was also incredibly polished. It did almost everything it was supposed to do really, really well. Safari was mind-glowingly good at the time, the iPod app was absolutely better than a regular iPod, and on and on. That isn’t the case in iOS right now. Passbook is one of those things that should be really successful because it’s such a good idea, but it’s missing the part that Apple usually excels at: making something fairly complicated obvious and accessible to regular people.