17 Feb 2010

'A' for Apple. Not.

There's something uncannily consistent about Apple's advertising. And I'm not talking about layouts or typefaces or 'creativity'. I really can't put my finger on it... but the tone of their advertising somehow has never seemed artificial. They've always had a lot to say. Earlier, in words - but lately, it's been more visual... An result of Apple's 'evolving' audience, I suppose. (I'll come back to that.)

But there are no half-measures, no superficial attempts in their products - or their advertising. In 1984, they bought out all the advertising space in a special issue of Newsweek; released 20-page ads in major magazines; and handed-out Macs to 200,000 people to 'test drive' for 24-hours! That year, they sold 2 million Apple IIs.

Apple's tone brims with self-confidence verging on we-don't-give-a-damn brashness. In August 1981, when International Business Machines introduced the IBM Personal Computer, Apple greeted it with this full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal.

(Please read it to fully appreciate the forward-looking message.)

Apple's actions feel truly we-know-how-it-feels sincere. Be it initiatives like the Apple Placement Center that helped find new jobs for 90% of the 1200 employees laid-off during a 're-organization' in 1985. Or a year later, in April 1986, when Apple moved out its advertising from Chiat/Day and released this ad.

(Again, you'll need to read it to fully appreciate the sentiment.)

And Apple's attitude shows idealism verging on we-will-change-the-bloody-world lunacy. It makes even their failures look like spectacular feats of over-confidence that are ahead of their time - not like bad ideas to begin with! These are two such...

From 1991. (Click and enlarge to see a neat surprise on the headline.)

From 1997. (Click and enlarge to temporarily lose control of lower-jaw.)

Whatever it is, Apple's advertising and brand image seems to be working very well indeed. Today, with the iPod and iPhone, they have moved from appealing to merely the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, and the troublemakers who 'think different' - to becoming the must-have instrument of self-actualisation for the self-centred, narcissistic wannabe on every street corner.

Is there more eccentricity and genius amongst us today? Or has Apple simply become the new cool? And how long before it becomes too trendy, too ubiquitous, too big, boardroom-oriented, and too profit-focused to stand up to the lofty ideals of '1984' and 'Think Different'?

But no matter where Apple Inc. is headed, it leaves in its wake a rich legacy in advertising... I recommend every advertising professional, real or imagined, to pay a visit to (or homage at) the 'Mac Mothership'. We may learn something. Seriously.

P.S: I almost forgot the pin-up for Apple fanboys. (Click it for enhanced pleasure.)

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