Apple's New Ads: Very cute, but will they win over "Switchers"?

Peter Burrows

I watched the new ads on Apple's homepage before leaving work last night, and there's no doubt about it: they're funny, smart and are proof that Apple is ready to step out of its corner in a big way to do battle for Switchers in a more direct way. The ads all feature a likeable but hapless nerd playing the role of a "PC" and a far cooler (and less clean shaven) sort playing the role of "Mac". There's six spots in all, five of which emphasize particular comparative advantages of the Mac, such as the Mac's lack of viruses and the PC's lack of the iLife apps (other than iTunes). The sixth spot is a glowing tribute to Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walt Mossberg's glowing tribute to the new iMac.

But while I got a good laugh, I wonder how well the ads will play with potential "switchers"? No doubt, they drive home compelling points about the attributes of the Mac. But as much as Apple's ad guys down at Chiat Day worked to create an air of friendly co-existence and mutual respect between the two characters, that old Apple elitism shines through. I'm not sure its entirely appealing.

It's as though the "too cool for school" Mac guy, with his casual hipness, has bumped into the class loser in the hall. While he's nice enough to engage in friendly banter, is there any doubt he'll mercilessly diss the poor schlemeil when he gets with his in-crowd Mac-using friends?

Yes, some of the best advertising appeals to consumers' aspirations. And no doubt, the ads will play wonderfully well with Apple's loyal base. But I bet many Windows users--with the possible exception of those that are proud iPod owners--will be put off, even if sub-conciously.

No doubt, the spots are not nearly as insulting as Apple's infamous, creepy "Lemmings" ad for Macintosh Office in the 1980s. But in terms of actual effectiveness at luring Switchers, count me a skeptic.

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