Apple Trash Talk

Question I hear a lot: “If the Mac is nearly virus-free / so great / [insert superlative here], why don’t they advertise the hell out of those things?” Fair question. Looks like they’ve started doing just that with a series of Mac vs. PC ads bound to stir the pot and sell a few pooters.

The dilemma is this: When you’re selling a product where the existing userbase has a well-established superiority complex, how do you push your real virtues without coming off snobbish? It’s one thing to sell advantages, another to knock the other guy. Thing is, negativity works. Patrick Coskren, on the MacOS-Talk list (with permission):

In political advertising, everybody says they dislike negative ads, but results show they’re very effective, which is why you see them so much. Perhaps the point of the ads is to attack the near-universal belief that even though Macs may be “easier” and “better” (for particular definitions of easier and better), Windows remains “good enough.” They want to jar people out of the complacency of thinking Windows is good enough, and push them to re-evaluate their platform choice. Windows is dominant (in part) because it’s … the default choice; if people actually make a choice, the chance they’ll choose a Mac is probably higher than the 3% (or whatever) the current market share would suggest. Just like if you’re running against the popular incumbent, it can be effective to go negative.

Apple also pushes the “virus free” message — a delicate button now that viruses are no longer unheard-of on the Mac. Even if it’s true that 99.72% of viruses are Windows-bound, it’s a bit of a glass bubble. Ars Technica’s John Siracusa:

It’s like an airline advertising that it has fewer fatal crashes than its competitors. This just isn’t done — and for good reasons. Putting aside the moral and ethical aspects, which arguably don’t apply to Apple, there are important practical considerations as well. The new “Viruses” TV ad pulls back a slingshot and holds it to Apple’s face. The backlash is inevitable.

If some portion of the virus-free aspect of Mac ownership is due to OS X being “under the radar,” then Apple has just posted a giant “kick me” sign on its back.

Not to make too big a thing out of it. I think the ads are well done overall, and kinda funny.

Music: Brian Eno :: Compact Forest Proposal, Condition 7

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8 Replies to “Apple Trash Talk”

  1. The giant “Kick Me” sign is hung right above a Cast Iron Arse.
    As a Mac user, I’m looking forward to Malcontents attempting to crack the Cast Iron Plating. Apple is rather dismissive about the MalWare threat, so more attacks will force them into action.

    The helpviewer:runscript() vulnerability wasn’t closed until the discoverer went public, and then it still took Apple two weeks to post a fix. He had notified Apple something like 6-months before he went public.

  2. re: negativity works

    I disagree that negativity works. One might also notice that voting percentages are down sharply in recent years. I think negative political ads have a lot to do with it by making politics seem so dirty that nobody wants anything to do with them. Not a bad attitude for the politicians either, since it reduces their public oversight.

  3. My daughters and I gathered around the iBook screen and watched all 6 ads last night several times each. We all cracked up. I love the networking ad where the two guys start off holding hands.

  4. “It’s like an airline advertising that it has fewer fatal crashes than its competitors.”

    Not really. It’s not like people are dying from using a particular OS. I reckon good on Apple for having a poke at Windows without even mentioning Windows.

  5. I don’t think the strength of the analogy depends on being interpreted so literally. But I agree that the pokes in the ads are light-hearted and relatively congenial. And in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have called the post “Apple Trash Talk” — that’s wording things too strongly given the tone of the ads.

  6. Negativity may work on the surface, but as Jim points out it tends to have undesirable consequences. Negativity breeds negativity.

    Last year I finally gave in to the nagging of the “switch” ads and of my many Mac using friends: I bought a Powerbook. I’ve found the process of learning my way around it, and “switching” my Windows habits, to be a real uphill struggle (and in fact, I’m back using Windows PCs most of the time now). A lot of this has to do with ingrained habits and muscle-memory, but plenty is down to real failings in the OS and interface design.

    If it hadn’t been for the negative Switch ads and the outspoken Windows-hatred of many Mac users I know then I would happily put this down to a difference in tastes. As it is, I’m never likely to trust Steve Jobs & his shyster cronies again, and I find myself unwittingly drawn into making negative comments about Macs when really I ought to just keep my big mouth shut.

  7. Yeah, well, I was possibly exaggerating a little. And also I’m not your average switcher, I have 15 years muscle-memory investing in Windows and I have also learnt to understand and actually make use of those squillions of menu and configuration options built into most Windows software. I also like to do almost everything by keyboard, which has proved to be a lot harder than I’d expected on the Mac.

    But, no, I don’t really hate the Mac. What’s really poisoned against Apple are the preachiness of the switch ads plus the taunts of Mac users who accuse me of backwardness because I genuinely prefer using Windows.

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