Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s newest TV commercials, showing consumers enjoying its products while an actor reads the company’s corporate philosophy, are a flop compared with earlier ads from the maker of iPhones and iPads.
The company’s latest ad, which began airing June 10, has earned the lowest score of 26 Apple TV ads in the past year, according to Ace Metrix Inc., a consulting firm that analyzes the effectiveness of TV ads through surveys of at least 500 TV viewers. The ad scored 489 on the company’s scoring system, below an industry average of 542 and far below past iconic Apple campaigns that often topped 700.
The 60-second commercial, which shows kids in school with iPads as a voice declares the company’s product-design goals, underlines a strategic advertising shift at Cupertino, California-based Apple. The company is moving away from upbeat ads promoting product features toward ones that identify it as a reliable provider of products that combine quality, innovation and utility.
“Apple was never a company that bragged about itself,” said Edward Boches, a professor of advertising at Boston University. “In a manifesto ad, it’s hard not to come across as self indulgent. And even though it suggests the wonderful things Apple products can do, the ad lacks joy.”
The change in tack started earlier this year, with similar ads that highlighted the iPhone’s status as a popular camera and music player. These ads, which show contemplative montages of people using iPhones in their daily rounds, also fared poorly by Apple’s standards on Ace Metrix’s scale, with scores of 560 and 537, respectively.
Apple had intended for the ads to energize its customers and slow market share gains by Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) while it prepares new versions of the iPhone and iPad, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this month.
Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman at Apple, declined to comment.
Apple shares fell 1.1 percent to $393.78 at the close in New York. They’re down 44 percent from a record high in September amid concern that Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has taken too long to deliver a new breakthrough product to help make up for stiffer iPhone competition.
Also holding down scores for Apple is the lack of a recent “big product launch,” Ace Metrix CEO Peter Daboll said in an e-mail in May. He was referring to ads generally.
Apple’s new ad, dubbed “Designed by Apple in California,” scored a 528 on “Information,” versus an hardware-industry average of 603. A recent ad for Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 phone that showed features such as the ability to answer a call without touching the screen scored a 757 by that same measure.
Since May, Samsung has had eight ads that scored an average of over 600, according to Ace Metrix.
Apple’s new ad scored poorly with male viewers, particularly those over 21 years old, though it fared better with women. Some viewers described the music as “sad,” and said the spot was too long.
Boches, the BU professor, said the final seconds of the ad may strike some viewers as inappropriately political. The words “Designed by Apple in California” appear as the voice says, “This is our signature, and it means everything.”
“Is this a subtle way of saying we’re not a Korean company? That’s not the way a leader like Apple should talk,” said Boches, who also described himself as a “huge fan” of Apple.
Apple has been under fire for poor working conditions at the Chinese contract manufacturing firms that make its products, and for employing tax avoidance practices that while not illegal, drew criticism from Congress.
“It feels like Apple is groping a bit,” said Boches. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this campaign is short-lived.”
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