The “Get A Mac” UK ads just don’t get it

For those of you who don’t visit the Apple UK website and haven’t heard they have some UK only “Get a Mac” ads. Most of them are pure copies of the US ones, so I won’t talk about those here. Instead, what about the two new ones – Home Office and Tentacle?

Apparently the UK consumer buzz around Apple has fallen from +14 to +8 since the ads were screened, although I’ve unsuccessfully looked for the original data on the YouGov website and that of MediaWeek who are supposed to have dug it up. So what is it, if anything, that the ads just don’t “get”? Here’s my tuppence worth.

Home Office
Hmm… is this what Californians think Britain is like? People going to “supper” at each others’ houses? Well, maybe in the aristocracy, and maybe in some little Bijou residences in Chelsea, but not in the rest of the country. After all, most people haven’t been to Public School and just don’t talk like that.

[For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, in the UK a Public School is one you have to pay a lot of money to go to; that means only the rich can afford to go, as the fees are usually about £5,000 to £10,000 per term – that’s £15- 30,000 per year, or $30- 60,000 per year if you’re from “across the water”.]

Why else could the PC guy be more popular? Well, he’s clearly the Alpha male. As a biologist I know that in primate groups there is a hierarchy underneath an Alpha male, and humans are just another primate. We have hierarchies – tall people are more likely to get voted into office than short ones; the attractiveness of men to women is based not on how men relate to women, but how men relate to other men – because it’s a display of power and confidence. The alpha male is the one that displays the most aggressively to the other males.

The reason why this ad doesn’t work is because the PC guy is the alpha male. He’s the one confidently showing off to his accolyte, the Mac guy. It’s the PC who gets all the attention, he’s the one with the big cajones. So he’s the one the viewer warms to. The Mac guy? He’s weak and insipid, doesn’t say boo to a goose, and is nowhere near as good as the US Mac guy.

I have to admit, I don’t really understand this one at all. If you want people to trust you, you like straight into their eyes. So, who’s giving all the eye contact here? The PC. He looks directly into the camera, daring you to disbelieve him and talks with conviction.

The Mac guy? He’s furtive, shady, and gives practically no eye contact the whole ad. When he does look directly at you, it’s with squinting eyes, and it’s no more than a glance for a fraction of a second. He’s not trustworthy. And with his hands jammed in his trousers, he almost looks repressed. That’s no way to present the idea of a Mac.

But, maybe that’s the market Apple are after? Not the Alpha males, but the ones underneath him? Well, that’s where this ad really doesn’t understand the psychology involved. Alpha males are strong influencers, that’s why Steve Jobs does his keynotes so well, and why Bill Gates can’t and has to rely on coercion.

The translated ads
OK, I said I wouldn’t talk about the other ads here, but they do fit after all, at least in general terms. Of course, I haven’t seen them on TV, just on the website, but that’s enough to form an impression.

First of all, you have to remember that we Brits always like an underdog, and in many ways see ourselves very much as the successful underdog you don’t want to wake. In these ads the PC is usually the underdog; they’d have been much better with the PC being arrogant and pushy and the Mac being nice and helpful. Or even having the PC character in charge, and the clever Mac underdog coming up with some clever little wheeze to get the girl, get the job, get the contract or get the whatever – but always from the position of the underdog. Maybe one of hese scenarios would work better… or perhaps you can think of a better one?

Scenario 1
Old lady sitting at table, wants to do something with a computer.

PC says: “Are you stupid? It’s easy – anyone with a degree in computer science can do it. Just drop into my filesystem and reboot me. What? You want me to do everything for you? Pah. I’m going to take a nap…”

Mac says: “Don’t worry about him, he stresses out easily. Here, let me help you…” Mac proceeds to produce nicely outputted workflow in no time at all. “There you are! All finished. You’ve got time to look at those photos your grandchildren sent from Australia now. Or would you like to have a video chat with them while I do something else for you? It’d be no trouble at all…” Old Lady smiles at photos of grandchildren on screen…

Scenario 2
PC Character comes into bar with entourage from office, cocky, arrogant, trips over step; Mac character sitting quietly, observes. PC character tries talking to people in the bar, nobody understands. Finally, PC reaches Mac character, asks “Why can’t anyone understand me? I just want to send a fax…” Mac character replies “Relax, this is downtime. Have some fun! Everyone likes fun.” PC replies “Downtime? Isn’t that when I cras…..” PC freezes, one by one all his entourage freezes too. Mac character says to barman “I guess he can’t chill out…”


6 comments on “The “Get A Mac” UK ads just don’t get it

  1. I wonder why Apple even bothers advertising. They’ve become so iconic, that word-of-mouth and mass-media talk just gets the word around.

    When ads go wrong, it’s just embarassment all round.


  2. I think a lot of it is to do with putting the brand in front of people outside of the niche Apple had retreated into. If you look at the expansion of the Apple Retail shops it would be normal to match outlet expansion with some public awareness ads, which is what these ads are.

    Even if the ads are crass themselves, they are different and get the name out there. As Lord Rothermere, first owner of the Daily Express answered when asked if it was worth advertising, he is reported to have said “Half my advertising budget is a waste; trouble is, I just don’t know which half!”

  3. At least people are actually going to use Vista.

  4. lol!

    That’s just so funny. I bet you Macs are actually used for a greater percentage of the time they have an operator in front of them than is a PC.

    First off, Macs don’t crash like PCs do. Second, you don’t need to constantly reboot to have your peripherals or programs work. Third, system performance isn’t degraded with a 50 million lines of code OS with inefficient graphics optimisation. Fourth, Macs don’t get viruses, so no need to sit in front of your computer waiting for the virus definitions file to download, or for the virus checker to do its job. Fifth, Macs defrag as they go – PCs need to have this done manually. Sixth, Macs don’t get spyware.

    When you sit down at a Mac, you actually use it; it works with you, not against you. Can’t say that about a PC.

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