Ad vs. Ad, Who Is Winning The Apple-Samsung Playoffs [Opinion]



This is a guest post by Ken Segall, a Silicon Valley advertising executive who worked closely with Steve Jobs. Among other things, Segall put that little “i” in front of the iMac and helped develop Apple’s famous Think Different ad campaign. Segall is author of Insanely Simple, a very readable insightful account of what makes Apple tick.

Last time Apple went heavy on advertising in a sporting event, it didn’t exactly end well.

But let us not speak of the Genius anymore. All traces of that campaign have been hidden from our sight.

Now the baseball playoffs are here. And once again, Apple has made a very expensive media buy. This time, it’s blanketing the games with the new iPhone 5 ads.

But look. Someone else has moved into the neighborhood. Samsung showed up for the playoffs with equal force, in the form of its Galaxy S III ads. You know — the ones that make fun of the lost souls who line up to buy an iPhone, when they could just as easily have a much cooler Samsung phone.

So as the teams are battling it out in the stadiums, Apple and Samsung are slugging it out during the commercial breaks.

It’s actually an interesting matchup. (Remember, I’m talking about the commercials here and not the phones themselves.)

As I’ve said before, I do think these are the best iPhone ads Apple has ever made. Each one focuses on a distinct feature, making its point in a most human way. Jeff Daniels’ voice stands out, and it’s a perfect match for the Apple brand.

So does Apple’s creativity humiliate the boys of Samsung? Actually, no. When Samsung first started down this mock-the-Apple-cult road, it felt somewhat pathetic. But the latest spots have two things going for them.

First, they’re actually funny. The casting is good, the acting is played straight and the scripts score some points about Apple not exactly being first when it comes to things like a larger screen. What’s said by the Apple fans in line would fit well with the viral hit, Sh*t Apple fanatics say.

But a bigger reason why Samsung’s ads are scoring points is something the company couldn’t have seen coming. Apple has stumbled. A number of things didn’t go right with the iPhone 5 launch — from the Maps fiasco to a variety of other issues (scratches, lens flare, etc.) From a marketing point of view, it’s irrelevant whether these problems are real or blown out of proportion — the fact is, the stories are all over the place.

And right in the thick of it come these Samsung commercials, which use humor to make their aggressiveness more palatable. If you’re Samsung, you have to be pretty happy that you made a big buy in the baseball playoffs right when the negative stories about iPhone 5 were peaking.

This isn’t to say that I prefer Samsung’s ads. I think Apple’s spots are more clear and more charming. And I’m sorry, but I have to laugh when I see the cool Samsung users touching one phone to another to transfer a playlist. Feels a lot like Microsoft asking us to “squirt” songs to one another between Zunes. And you remember how well that worked out.

Call me a prude, but I don’t like the idea of my iPhone mating with another phone like that. At least not in public. Besides, I’m sharing playlists all the time already via Spotify, which requires no touching at all.

But I digress.

I’m a fan of the baseball playoffs, and it’s always fun to see teams slugging it out — above and beyond the ones on the field.

This post was originally published here.

  • nvettese

    But as soon as Apple releases a phone that can transfer playlists by touching phones, you will have a new OpEd touting the virtues of iPhone Mating… Tell me I am wrong! :)

  • ScotHibb

    Being an Ad Exec I can’t agree more with this assessment. Samsung got so lucky they should be charged more for their TV spots and Run of Book ad space! Being a diehard Apple fan (I don’t wait on lines but I do stay up all night to preorder every new release), I must say that I’m not that bothered by the hiccups we’ve experienced with the iPhone 5. In fact, the only disappointment is you can’t tether and get around paying to make your phone a WiFi Hotspot. BUT, as soon as all the great hackers out there figure out the Jailbreak for iOS 6 on a iPhone 5, that problem will go away. How many people have cars that don’t have Nav systems and need to use their phones as a GPS device?

    I still feel embarrassed for Samsung when I see their ads, and still think they’re pathetic…but they’re getting a bigger bang-for-the-buck than they ever thought they would (and not because their ad agency rocks either, the atmosphere was perfect for their mock-apple-user campaign).

  • nefan65

    I think Samsung’s ads are pathetic. If their phone was so good, why not just have an ad on them? Go on about how great the experience is using their products vs. a lame commercial about people in line. The whole “waiting in line” thing is over. It’s done…move on.

  • gnomehole

    But as soon as Apple releases a phone that can transfer playlists by touching phones, you will have a new OpEd touting the virtues of iPhone Mating… Tell me I am wrong! :)

    You may be right for some things, but in this case I disagree. This is not a cool feature. Airplay transfer would be more Apple’s style… touch is just a backwards bump for those that like to cross swords.

  • Th3_1d

    I think Samsung’s ads are pathetic. If their phone was so good, why not just have an ad on them? Go on about how great the experience is using their products vs. a lame commercial about people in line. The whole “waiting in line” thing is over. It’s done…move on.

    I don’t know if I entirely agree with that, ads are more about selling the culture and image of the product then the actual product itself. Think of the old two-colored iPod ads, they didn’t really talk about why the iPod was the mp3 player to get, they just relied on good music and dancing. I’m not saying that I support the ads, but I can understand what they are going for. Anti-Apple culture is def popular right now, and Samsung is just trying to market to that. Really, all we can do is roll our eyes and ignore it, making a fuss just adds into the image.

  • SupaMac

    I asked Siri who was winning this Playoff but it didn’t have an answer. I thought it now supported this feature?

  • vanmacguy

    Off topic I know as this post is talking about the ads but anyway…

    When the Samsung users swap playlists with a bump, what are they actually exchanging? The playlist, as in the names of the tracks? Or the playlist as in the music itself?

    Because isn’t one of those illegal? We’re not allowed to give music to people are we? Or did the rules change while I was napping?

  • Th3_1d

    When you’re focused on your competitor, you’ve taken your eye off the ball. It shows that you are worried about them more than your own product. It’s usually a sign of a business with no strategy. It makes no sense poking fun at your competitors users, then expect them to buy your product. Then again, samsuck have no moral compass anyway.

    I’m a Mac and I’m a PC…

  • Todd Moore

    Hurrah for Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners! There hand operated scoreboard is used in the photoshoped picture for this article.

  • James Edward Trenda

    These Samsung commercials are giving me Deja, Deja, Deja, Deja vu. I, too, think they are pathetic. The only funny thing about it is when that one dude says, ‘The big screeeen.’ Haha; I love Apple and my iPhone 5, but that part is funny. The rest of the commercial is a joke. Why do they have to make fun of people to move their product? One of the dumbest things about these new commercials is when one GSIII user says, ‘You can watch a video while sending an e-mail’ or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, that is a useless feature, in my opinion. How can anyone focus on writing an e-mail if they are watching a video? Swing and a miss for Samsung, if you ask me.

  • Len Williams

    Let’s examine Samsung’s “waiting in line” ads. The main message is that iPhone users are stupid, desperately trendy hipsters who aren’t cool and who wouldn’t know good technology if it bit them in their nether regions. As an iPhone user, this doesn’t entice me to look at a Samsung phone because they’ve just tried to insult the snot out of me. I also know that I enjoy my iPhone and it’s capabilities, and I don’t say stupid stuff like the people waiting in line — therefore I’ve debunked several of the points in the ad — and I’m even less inclined to trust a company that purloined all the fundamental ideas for their phone from Apple in the first place.

    I have a challenge for Samsung: Why not show us what your “superior” phones can actually do in your ads? Oh yeah, it’s because except for the startup/home screen Samsung phones look nearly identical to iPhones, and no, bonking phones together to “exchange playlists” isn’t any kind of major feature whatsoever.

  • jking316

    Hey, aren’t the new A6 processors built by Samsung?

  • NethanH

    Whenever someone criticizes about Samsung’s commercials making fun of Apple users, I always just remember the old Mac commercial that made fun of Windows users.

    However, I couldn’t agree more with the whole mating phones thing. It just looks stupid, and I couldn’t stop laughing when a commercial was played before a movie in a theatre about Samsungs ‘Tapping to share”. I could not stop laughing. Tapping? Really? Even my friend (who isn’t a technology buff at all, he uses an older Qwerty Keyboard Sliding phone and he’s perfectly content with it) looked at me with a disgusted face and said, “Tapping phones? What the heck?”

    I picture Apple taking the route of Playlists being shared in much better way. Not by tapping phones.