By Ian Sherr
When Apple released its “Genius” ads during the Olympics late last month, some Mac fans were not impressed. But one firm that tracks brand perceptions thinks Apple had good reasons for the campaign.
Unlike Apple’s typical ads these days, which exude cool and show off what their devices can do, these 30-second clips placed an Apple tech support employee from its retail shops in some extreme situations while helping his customers, such as having to create a movie minutes before a plane lands.
Those familiar with other Apple ads were surprised by the more conventional “we’re here to help” approach. A particularly harsh reaction came from Ken Segall, whose LinkedIn profile says he worked for an ad firm on Apple’s “Think Different” campaign.
“These ads are causing a widespread gagging response, and deservedly so,” he said in a recent blog post. He wrote that the company’s previously successful “Mac vs. PC” campaign–in which comedians John Hodgman and Justin Long play-acted a PC and Mac talking to one another–were largely successful because they spoke to would-be customers and galvanized the Mac faithful.
These new ads, in his view, did not. “I honestly can’t remember a single Apple campaign that’s been received so poorly,” he said.
So what was Apple thinking? YouGov’s BrandIndex, a daily tracking and survey service, thinks the answer might lie in shifting demographics.
The service noticed that beginning in May of last year, the popularity of Apple’s brand began to grow among those 35 years old and up. By October, BrandIndex said Apple’s popularity among that demographic had grown to its highest level in at least four years. From early 2008 through mid-July 2011, by contrast, Apple scored higher with the 18-34 age group, the firm said.
The increased popularity among older consumers could have influenced Apple’s decision to put out the “Genius” ads, BrandIndex said.
“It appears that the 35+ demographic, which includes Boomers 50 and over, may need more product hand-holding than the younger group–hence the Genius,” BrandIndex said, adding that Apple’s decision to run the ads during prime-time Olympics coverage, where the audience is easily over 35 years old, made sense as well.
Such a strategy would seem a pretty sharp departure for Apple, which is not known for targeting ads at different audiences. Its print ads for the iPhone 4S, for example, are pretty much the same from publication to publication, and its television ads tend to be the same across any channel they play on.
An Apple spokesman said the company doesn’t discuss its marketing.
Whatever the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant’s thoughts or reasons for running these “Genius” ads in particular, they overwhelmingly succeeded in one way: they got people talking about Apple.