June 9, 2002 8:25 PM PDT

Apple's 'Real People' ad seeks PC crowd

In its largest marketing effort since the "Think Different" campaign, Apple Computer is planning a series of TV and print ads featuring people who tell why they switched from a PC to a Mac.

The "Real People" ads will start appearing this week. The TV versions are directed by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, director of "The Thin Blue Line."

In an interview, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the overall campaign are intended to show consumers they won't get stranded on a technology island if they switch to Apple.

Apple has placed a growing emphasis in the past year on enlisting PC users. When it debuted its retail stores just over a year ago, Apple said it was targeting the 95 percent of computer users who are not using a Mac, and on occasions since then has employed the tagline "5 down, 95 to go."

Recent product introductions have helped the company boost its market share somewhat. In the first quarter, Apple saw its share of the U.S. market increase to 3.7 percent from 3.4 percent a year ago, according to IDC. Historically, Apple has tended to hover around a 5 percent share of the market, fluctuating a couple points above or below that level. Jobs has said that converting Windows customers is a necessity if the company is to break out of that range.

Apple plans to use its stores increasingly as a vehicle to help customers make the switch. If customers bring their Windows-based PCs to an Apple store, a worker at Apple's "genius bar" will help transfer the files to a Mac, Jobs said.

Half of sales in the stores are already going to non-Mac owners, Jobs said, with most of those going to people switching from a PC. There aren't a lot of first-time computer buyers left, he said.

Jobs said the people in Apple's ads are representative of some 10,000 letters and e-mails from PC users. The company has also been using its Web site to solicit the opinions of both those that have switched to a Mac as well as those that were considering such a move.

However, financial analyst David Bailey, of brokerage Gerard Klauer Mattison, said that over the years, Apple has not done a good job of preaching to the unconverted.

"In the past, Apple has aimed more at its installed base with its marketing," Bailey said. "We think it would be a welcome change if they would aim more at Wintel users."

Coming home to a Mac
Apple's ads feature a cross-section of Windows switchers, from a college student who bought a PC at the insistence of her parents to Aaron Adams, a Windows network administrator who bought a Mac for his home.

"I deal with Windows all day," Adams says in one of the ads. "When I'm tired of that, I come home to a Macintosh."

In another spot, writer Sarah Whistler bemoans her PC, which she says doesn't work the way her brain does.

"It was a horrid little machine," Whistler said. "Even though I used it for years, I never used it well."

The campaign is not Apple's first effort to portray how Macs are being used by individuals. In one of the more popular campaigns during the time that Jobs was away from Apple, the company ran a series of print ads that showed what both celebrities and ordinary people had on their PowerBooks.

Still, there's a perception that the Mac is not compatible with the rest of the computing world, according to analyst Stephen Baker of market researcher NPDTechworld.

"Apple products are much more compatible with the mainstream than they ever have been," Baker said.

Baker said all of the major computer makers are scrambling to find new ways to reach PC buyers in a market where demand is waning. Dell Computer has impressed analysts with Steven, its teenage spokesman, while Gateway has pinned its fortunes to a talking cow.

"I think everyone is struggling with (the question), how do you advertise what you have to a mass market?" Baker said. "They are trying to generate demand where there isn't any."

Apple's ads, which will run in Time and Newsweek as well as cable and network television, will point to a part of Apple's Web site that will be devoted to giving information to would-be Mac converts.

In the television ads, the actual Mac owner explains why he or she gave up the PC. Jobs said the ads feature people speaking in their own words, without any sets or props. "They're real people," Jobs said. "We didn't tell them what to say."

The eight people were filmed using Morris' special camera, the Interrotron, which uses mirrors so that interview subjects appear to be looking at an interviewer when in fact they are facing the camera.

Jobs would not say how much Apple is spending on the new ads, but he pointed out that the company's most successful ad ever--its 1984 spot introducing the Macintosh--ran only once.

 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.