Many geeks are bothered by the new Apple ads. I am too, but I’ve been having trouble putting my finger on the exact reason why until now. My gut instinct was, “Whoa, they’re advertising the physical stores, in particular the employees, that’s weird.”
Then it sort of shifted to, “Whoa, the ‘genius’ is actually a character in their marketing suddenly, that’s weird.” But that was wrong, too (even if the previous attempt was short-lived and part of a larger story).
Now it’s something more like, “They’re actually turning PC users into characters (different from Hodgeman being “a PC” in general), and they’re fucking idiots, that’s super fucking weird.”
In “Basically”, there’s a genius and an idiot. And the PC user who isn’t sure what he bought is definitely the idiot. In “Mayday”, the guy has a Mac but can’t figure out how to drag and drop. And don’t get me started on “Labor Day”, where the clueless father-to-be doesn’t give a shit about his wife because he can’t figure out how to make a card for the grandparents.
They’re not “great” ads, they’re not subtle, and they’re not what we’ve come to expect from Apple. That’s all pretty clear. What really surprises me most, however, is that Apple is now very comfortable marketing to potential ‘switchers’ by stereotyping the clueless computer user on a grand scale. Not this sort of helpless misunderstanding that Hodgeman exemplified well, a condemnation wrapped in a lovable, unoffensive persona. And remember, that persona was “PC” — not necessarily a user, or specific person.
We all know the stereotype they’re loosely pointing the finger at here – your mom or dad or grandparent who can’t use their machine, who doesn’t understand the differences between machines and their capabilities … people who take a sort of Payless Shoe Source approach to technology: “It looks just like those Nikes, why spend so much money?” We’ve all rolled our eyes at that approach (in junior high and in present day). We know more than they do, we get to help them. And of course this all terribly condescending , but it’s one thing if I’m condescending to my own mother when she tries to search the web in iTunes (which she thinks is a ‘phone charger’), and quite another for a brand to condescend to the same stereotype, then hope they buy something. It’s shocking and incredibly lazy all at once.
In a way, it’s a bold leap to so directly address the PC community and say, “Listen, you don’t know things. You need help. We can give it to you. Look at this kid, he sleeps with his ID tag on. All he wants to do is give you a letter-pressed photo book for grandma.” Most PC companies market to these folks by creating products that look like Mac products. And yes, that’s exactly what “Basically” is calling out. But the theme here is broader, more finger-pointy: We want you, and we’ll get you like the jock at basketball practice did when he made fun of your knock off sneakers in gym class.”
Now go home and beg for Nike money. Not for the product, but for the release from infamy.
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