The Poor Little iMac, Crying For Attention

by Chris Seibold Oct 27, 2005

Halloween is right around the corner, in fact it is a mere four days away. To most people Halloween means parties, trick or treating and a new Homestarrunner Halloween special. To retailers it means that it is time to drag out the Christmas goods. Now admittedly some of the Christmas goods have been around since mid summer. The local Wal-Mart, for example, has had a variety of poorly made plastic Christmas trees on display since the second week of September. The cynical will note that the middle of September seems awfully early for mega chains to start trying to capitalize on the consumer frenzy that is the holidays. That cynicism is matched by the pragmatism of the retailers, after all if consumers want to buy shoddy Christmas trees when the temperature is in the nineties with a relative humidity to match, who are they to turn them away?

Perhaps it is more a measure of just how popular (and profitable) the holidays have become. Businesses need the holiday sales for a robust year (the day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday) so holding a grudge against retailers and businesses for trying to maximize their holiday take is a bit naive. What is more troubling than the businesses who want to sell a ton of merchandise during the holiday quarter are the businesses who seemingly to want to cater to the consumer but completely ignore a major segment of their business during the busy season. The culprit here is, of course, Apple Computer.

Apple, predictably, will advertise the batteries out the new iPod and possibly the iPod nano. You won’t be able to turn around without seeing a Lugz derivative commercial or a bunch of hands battling for an easily scratched iPod nano.* Which is great, in the last quarter the iPod accounted for 33% of Apple’s income.  The iPod is obviously a popular product and hence it should be advertised. Still Apple is giving short shrift, at least from a marketing perspective, to the new iMac. It is important to remember that Macintosh computers still account for 43% of Apple’s sales, the largest percentage of Apple’s revenue.(Is Apple a computer company that happens to sell iPods, or an iPod company that sells a high priced iPod add-on computer? The line between the two grows more blurred daily). So, keeping in mind that computer sales still comprise the majority of Apple’s income, you have to wonder where the push is.

What is so alluring about the new iMac? Not much for the long time Apple users, they are used to iSight, iMovie and the rest of the Mac goodness associated with any Mac (well Front Row is new, I remain unimpressed). Windows users, in general, are unaware of the goodness that is Macintosh. Imagine a commercial where a guy pushed an amalgamation of a mismatched monitor and minitower, ugly speakers and one of those over buttoned keyboards into a trash bin (he leaves the iPod of course). Then plunks down the sleek iMac, plugs up the iPod (into the USB 2.0 port, dammit). Lastly our subject sits down and begins browsing and starts using the new iMac to download Lost. The spot does three things: it plays off the cachet of the iPod, shows a Mac replacing a PC and emphasizes the style that Apple is so rightly proud of. Oh, it also promotes iTune’s new video service.

The first commercial appeals to the space aware, image conscious denizens of the planet but ideally Apple would push the Mac for families as well. The perfect chance to do this is with the post Thanksgiving back to college spot. Open up with a shot of the iMac screen while iMovie is turning footage into a movie automatically with Dad in the background watching football. When iMovie is finished Dad fires up iChat (built in iSight of course) and has a three-way videoconference with his two kids away at college. He drops the home movie onto their chat icons while telling the kids it took all day to make it. They know he’s lying, they’ve got Macs as well.

Side note: here people will argue that you aren’t really showing users anything they can’t already do on Windows, an older Mac or Linux, and then question the point. Consider two things: Users like convenience and, more importantly, it isn’t so much that the iMac can do all those things. It is more about capturing the rub from the excitement of the digital lifestyle. Recall, if you will, the original iMac. It could get on the ‘net like just about every other computer but it caught the rub of the nascent internet craze. Suffice it to say the original iMac did nothing new yet Apple sold a ton of them.

Back to the topic at hand: You could think of better ads than the examples listed above and Chiat-Day could absolutely think up something much more clever. The point isn’t really the quality of the spots but rather to emphasize the need for some commercials to boost and awareness of the Mac platform as a viable option. This is especially important with the Intel switch forthcoming. When the switch actually starts happening it will generate a huge media buzz. Coverage will be everywhere. At that point, with that much coverage, people will start thinking about switching to the Mac. This will be a good thing, if you like Apple’s stuff you want people considering their products for their next machine. Nevertheless, what would be infinitely better is that when the massive coverage of the Intel Macs starts people have been thinking about Macs long enough to make the switch. It’s an old trick, get your name back into play before something really big comes along. To cite one example: It is precisely why Clint Eastwood did Pink Cadillac immediately before White Hunter, Black Heart.

Summarizing the previous discussion is remarkably simple: Apple has an eminently marketable product in the new iMac. Therefore they should take a tip from the other corporations dotting the business landscape and advertise the thing. Please.

*Here’s some anecdotal evidence (for what it is worth): I’ve got a black nano and, as far as I can tell, it doesn’t scratch all that easily. I can still read the screen even long after giving up on 1-cent nano cases.


  • While I think TV ads are good for the iPod I would prefer to see a nice color insert in the Sunday paper - maybe just “What Computers Should Be” on the front.  Use the interior pages to show primarily iLife apps and emphasize safe internet use, various apps available (including Office - maybe MS will pay for that space) and stores where they can see Macs up close and talk to an Apple Rep.

    Back page for Macs themselves with few words.

    Add that they can call or use the internet to get a CD with more information.

    Why?  As soon as a TV ad is over it’s over.  With the insert people who are close to needing a new PC have a chance to save the insert for easy Sunday reading or for later when they are ready for Christmas shopping.

    MacKen had this to say on Oct 27, 2005 Posts: 88
  • I think they should just give them all away to poverty-level kids around the world wink

    eyehop had this to say on Oct 27, 2005 Posts: 19
  • I think one reason Apple does not advertise the Mac to the general public (via TV) is because people are STUPID. Apple would have to deal with a RASH of returns because idiots would not understand why they cannot install Quicken for Windows and Office for Windows and their stupid Solitaire for Windows and all their Windows based games right on the Mac.

    Once the Intel Macs ship and people actually will be able to do that via third party means or direct from Apple, then Apple will advertise.

    MacDan2004 had this to say on Oct 28, 2005 Posts: 8
  • I think one reason Apple does not advertise the Mac to the general public (via TV) is because people are STUPID.

    Apparently, Mac users ain’t exactly rocket scientists either.

    You, for example.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Oct 28, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • Mac product awareness already exists, everyone knows about it.  Little old ladies in the suburbs know what a Mac is.  Teenage girls all want one but can’t afford one, teenage boys claim there aren’t enough video games (and they’re correct!).  Advertising Mac is almost pointless because Apple needs only bombard the masses with iPod ads and people can’t help but see Mac’s in the store.  Mac has been around 20+ years, the iPod is still relatively new.  Mac gets so much free press everytime Steve Jobs takes the stage that you almost wonder how much the media is taking in payola.

    The word “Mac” is about as common in our vocabulary (at least in the US) as the word “Dell”, perhaps even more so.  It’s very definition seems to mean “expensive but worth it”, therefore why even waste the dollars advertising?  Everyone already knows it’s out there and what it is.

    dickrichards2000 had this to say on Oct 31, 2005 Posts: 112
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