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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mean Mac Ads?

Apparently both Boing Boing and Slate feel the recent switch ads for Macs are somewhat mean in nature. TUAW asks if they're productive. The basic premise seems to be that since the man playing the part of a PC, John Hodgman, is rather likable fellow ... that the Mac is just picking on the guy.

Honestly, I'm not sure I've read a more oddly nuanced view of a Mac ad since people debated if that girl was stoned or on cough medicine. I rather find making the PC "character" likable turns the ad affable rather than confrontrational and not the other way around. If the PC was portrayed as some sniveling uncharasmatic suit ... well, then Apple would be guilty of just erecting a large straw man to beat on. In other words, you aren't supposed to choose Mac because the other guy is an assclown but rather because when the features are laid out side by side, you can see the benefits.

So by making the PC persona someone actually warm and funny just brings to light that Apple understands that people don't really hate Windows. Heck, if people are really going to go buy a computer based on personality, they'll probably get a Mac anyway. I bought my Mini before these ads came out ... and trust me when I say it's every bit as personable as Mr. Hodgman himself.




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7 comments:

Thomas said...

Well, they seemed smarmy to me. But then, Apple's ads have always seemed smarmy to me. I didn't think Hodgman made a real difference one way or the other.

Jason "Botswana" Cox said...

I thought the previous switch campaign was pretentious as hell. I'm kind of chuckling at the current ones. Yet there has been a lot more analysis done on the current ads then before. For example, an early ad where the PC and Mac are holding hands has been routinely pointed at having gay overtones. Which actually shows that the ads are working because people are talking about them. In fact, my wife, a serious non-techie, was telling me about the "out of the box" commercial before I ever saw it.

Josh said...

In truth, the only thing I like about Mac ads in general is the emphasis on user friendliness and simplicity ... a message which can't be trumpeted enough. I've been using computers since the DOS days (like, I imagine, many of you have) and OS X is one of my favorite OS's of all time.

I didn't like the idea of the latest ads mostly because the whole "I'm cooler than thou" approach is usually best responded with a schoolyard "no you're not." But, I liked them more than I figured I would ... and in part because Hodgman is so likable. Mostly, I've preferred them from the old "switch" ads because they feel friendlier and more informative.

Which is why this "they're so mean" opinion kinda makes me shake my head.

Thomas said...

Gay overtones?

It takes all kinds. OS X drives me up the wall when I use it. I felt like I was more productive in OS 9. Everybody's personality type reacts differently, I guess.

Are the ads more informative? I mean, Seth Stevenson may be overreacting a bit, but he's got a point about plugging in a camera or any of the other many things you can do with either machine. And I've got a couple of Windows boxes that I've honestly not even tweaked particularly hard, and they run for months before I decide to restart them--but Apple's ad still implies that Microsoft's OS can't even complete a sentence without crashing.

Hodgman and the other kid are certainly a lot less annoying than the Switch ads, but the RDF factor is still really high, and it turns a lot of people off.

Josh said...

But that's the thing ... you can never tell with Windows. Just last weekend I had to trick The Girl's mom's computer to accept a printer. Previously, I've had to trick an HP computer to access an HP printer.

These ads I think are bit more targeted in some of the areas a Mac excels. Out of the box the only software that's annoyed me on my Mini is the dumbass Microsoft Office demo, which somehow managed to be set to the default app despite the fact that the completely free AppleWorks does everything I need.

I think Apple's done some great work with OS X. When I first used it, I found it a mildly simpler Linux clone ... not much better than any Red Hat distro or the like. By the time I go the Mini, though, everything has been like silk. Heck, I'm doing PHP work on my old work Mac right now just to avoid Vis Studio.

Thomas said...

We could trade stories back and forth all day. My mom never could get an Epson printer to install on OS X, and she's had two iBooks brick themselves within a year of purchase--one as soon as she turned it on. Maybe the user experience was there for her, but quality control certainly wasn't. Ditto for Belle, whose iPod battery basically died within two or three months of purchase, and I've heard that from several people.

But the plural of anecdote is not data.

My mom doesn't appreciate it much when I say I've got an eight year old Dell Inspiron that's still my main audio and portable writing box, and I could lend it to her if the Mac's giving her problems again. Probably because I'm being a smug little bastard when I say that. And I kinda feel like the Apple commercials are the same way.

Josh said...

I fear for Apple's quality control, truly. It should be part of their lifeblood, but the anecdotes seem to start to pile up. My Mini has been spotless and The Girl's whole office runs on OS X without a hitch but, for example, some of the MacBook issues have been very un-Apple. I think the iPod battery issue has been prevalent, and could be indictive of Apple trying to wringe as much profit out of their cash cow as possible.

I was an Amiga fanatic back in the day, though, and very reluctantly gave it up. OS X is the first OS I've been able to get the same feeling from.