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.
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.