Monday, June 6, 2011

Something is starting to creep me out about advertising in general, and Apple's advertising in particular.

I've been feeling more and more unnerved by how advertisers abstract away from so many of the fascinating details that make people who they are, and hand us dull, cartoonish, predictable stereotypes that we're supposed to aspire to.

Apple just announced its new operating system, Lion, and I can't focus on the new features because I'm distracted by how insidiously Apple-like the advertising images are.

Apple ads promise a world with perfect racial and gender diversity — but almost no other kind of diversity.

No one is significantly overweight or underweight; everyone's moderately slim.

There are no same-sex couples.

Only a few different ages seem to be allowed: everyone's either 7, 17, or 27.

And of course, everyone has the same expression all the time.

I assume they did a focus group and found that seeing an abundant amount of diversity in the race and gender categories somehow makes us feel better about a world where people are homogeneous in every other way.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

how many other computer/electronic products advertise using overweight people? none.

~maia

Anonymous said...

It is worse than this.

The males are steriotypically weak and less attractive than their partners.

Racial profiling in reverse.

Think of the guy in the desert with his boat needing the wife to check GPS for "lake"

Michael said...

That's because they only want the pretty people to be represented. Woe be the old fat splotchy guy to touch a sacred apple. Pretty people for pretty products.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not fat or too old, but I am ugly. Fortunately, I'm already way creeped out by Apple for their closed system. There will be no alterations from the sacred Apple Way. "YOU VILL USE IT HOW VE ZAY!"

Anonymous said...

Apple has morphed from a company that sold itself as antifascist and rebellious (see their original "1984" ad) into a cult of black turtlenecked automatons who know where you've been. Creepy.

veni vidi vici said...

I've noticed the same thing. They're all boring-assed, Banana Republic-type stereotypical "white people" of the SWPL persuasion, regardless of their actual skin color. For a company that prides itself on "think different" and other blahblah of the mildly subversive gait, they sure are banal in the homogeneous lifestyle their advertising portrays.

For an even bigger retch, go to the store and flip through the iPhoto library on the iPads: uniform married 1-boychild, 1-girlchild families going on holidays to controversy-free locales and being boring together. Yawn.

Makes one wonder what they think of their customer base. "Our customers with their boring, little lives..." Or something.

Josh said...

Yep. They focus group this shit. Nothing creepy about it except that they want to sell as many of whatever product as possible.

lemondog said...

Uh.... they do include a butterfly....orange...with black spots....

Craig said...

This is as opposed to all those other advertising campaigns that feature unattractive people, right?

Ferd said...

Well, thank goodness you all can go buy something else, and change the channel. Nobody is forcing you to watch the ads, or buy the products. What do you all think the point of the advertising is? To sell products. Would they sell as much if all of the iPhoto libraries in the stores featured people at the Folsom Street Fair? Likely not.

EdWoodsReviews said...

It's all about human nature, I'm afraid.

Nobody wants to think of themselves as old, or unattractive. So we prefer looking at young, attractive people, regardless of where we are in life's great cycle.

As for geekiness, I'll bet most of Apple's highest spending customers are geeky males, because anyone spending big bucks on a computer is. You have to speak to your market.

Geeky males like to think they can meet with attractive women even if they cannot :(.

Nothing wrong with any of this.

If you want to defy society's conventions regarding looks, don't run an ad agency ...

D

Anonymous said...

And this forum is considerably less viscous than one would be if they went for a less staid approach. I have seen first hand the vile and contemptuous comments submitted to or about corporations when a customer is feeling offended.

Anonymous said...

I think they need more porn stars.

DirtCrashr said...

Looks a lot like Perfect Palo Alto to me, just don't go across the freeway to East Palo Alto, you might get mugged.

Anonymous said...

Geeky people don't buy Apple. They buy a collection of parts, assemble them into a custom computer for their purposes and run Linux.

As for advertsing, you see the Carl's Jr. commercial- we use supermodels in our ads because unattractive people don't sell burgers.

Anonymous said...

Just don't even their opinions on global warming.

Anonymous said...

Apple is simply marketing to their typical consumers - people who are superficially diverse but substantively homogeneous.

Iapetus said...

Apple's advertising creeps you out? Would an ad scene with a morbidly obese, one-legged person with Down syndrome sitting in a wheel chair be sufficient proof of Apple's commitment to "real" diversity...as well as be attractive enough to get you to click through the links to view the product video clips?

The real issue here is that Apple's slick advertising obscures the fact that there's no "there" there. I'm a long-time Mac user, but there's nothing in this advertising launch that interests me. To discover that, however, I had to view pages and pages of seductive advertising puffery---all of which tried damned sure that I would not notice what is NOT there.

The iCloud holds no interest for me. Why would I be insane enough to hand over control of my private data to a stranger? No thank you. And as far as I'm concerned, this Lion roars like a lamb. I'd say it really is just Snow Leopard OS 10.7. (To be fair, I'll give Apple their due: at least the low upgrade price reflects the reality that Lion is no major revision of the OS.) Mainly, I'd say, it is a way for Apple to increase its on-line sales by making the connection to Apple's on-line store as seamless as possible. I've never bought any music from Apple's iTune store, nor do I intend to. This "feature" doesn't interest me in the least.

Matt B. said...

On the subject of everyone in Apple ads being young, hip, attractive people, this got me to thinking about the Apple "Get a Mac" ads, with John Hodgman representing the PC and Justin Long representing the Mac.

Even though these ads were written, directed, and filmed by Apple, for Apple, I always thought that Hodgman--the pugdy everyman with a receding hairline and more than a drop of ineptitude--ended up being far more likable and identifiable than the smug hipster with whom he was paired. They tried to create a strawman, but strawmen had a point; in the end, the ads made me MORE inclined toward PCs and LESS inclined toward Macs than I had otherwise been.

You get the impression that Microsoft's marketing folks realized the same thing when they launched their "I'm a PC" ads in response. Yes, there was the requisite racial and gender diversity, but what I found striking about the first ad was how it deliberately emphasized the "everyman" aspect. You see people of all ages, professions, education levels. And they look like normal people, not slick ad models. That really illustrated for me the cultural difference, and how (a) Apple fans desperately want to see themselves as a beautiful, smart elite, and (b) Apple is quite happy to play to that eagerness.

Doug said...

Actually, the fact that none of the images shows same-sex couples is a plus as far as I am concerned. I get creeped out by companies (Progressive Insurance, I'm talking about YOU) that insist on representing at best 8% of the population as something considerably more than that. It's almost like they're saying, "Hey c'mon kids, try this out - it's neat!"

Jimpithecus said...

Funny, it just looked like an advertisement to me.

Godot said...

Apple's 'iFad' advertising has always been like this. You're just waking up to the smell of the fruit-juice.

They built a brand which trades on what they have taught you to believe.

It was never true.
_

gus3 said...

So Apple should include bald guys with paunches in their ads? Yeah, right.... wrong demographic. I'd expect to see that sooner in a beer commercial.

RightWingNutter said...

Most of my computers are Macs, but I have a recent Toshiba laptop running Windows 7. The programs I use there have no Mac analogs outside of Boot Camp.

I just find the Mac OS easier to use to do the ad hoc stuff that comes up. The programs themselves that have versions for both OS are pretty much the same. Using the file system, setting up network sharing, printer sharing, etc. is just easier on the Mac. I can do all the same stuff on Windows, it's just less convenient.

So as long as Apple doesn't try to close off its system (as it does with iOS) I'll keep ignoring the ad faces and go with the features.

Sam said...

When you understand that advertising shows people as they wish they were, rather than people as they actually are, then the Apple ads make more sense.

Anonymous said...

I don't see pretty people so much as I see bland, non-threatening, forgettable. Probably so as not to compete with the product. Do I want you to remember the hot girl, the cute kid, or my awesome product?

Anonymous said...

Get used to it, haters; the "fad" card only works for a decade or so. Yours has expired.

Apple sells a lot of product, and does it both well and pretty responsibly. They sell to people of all races, ages, and yes, even income levels (it's not much more for an iPod than, say, a decent pair of basketball shoes).

Anonymous said...

Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown...

Anonymous said...

ow many other computer/electronic products advertise using overweight people? none.

~maia



Did you miss Microsoft's "I'm a PC" campaign?

Sigivald said...

Anonymous Said (Because Real Geeks Don't Have Identities?):Geeky people don't buy Apple. They buy a collection of parts, assemble them into a custom computer for their purposes and run Linux.

Yeah. Because geeky people don't have laptops? See, it turns out that you can't really piece those together in any sort of effective way... and they're really popular, even with geeky people.

I seem to recall that lots of geeky people buy MacBooks of one sort or another - because it turns out that they come with a world-class Unix(TM) already installed, and they've got very high build quality.

Now, if "Geeky people" means only "Linux geeks who don't care about industrial design and don't value their time", what you said is true.

But I know lots of Geeky People who have better things to do than either build their own daily-use computer or fight the Linux Distribution Of The Week's Current Issues.

(Me, I build my own gaming PCs running Windows. And then recycle them into servers running some free Unix or other.

And I buy Macs alongside them...

I guess I must not really be geeky, despite being a programmer and running Linux at home for 15 years now, and building PCs - because I don't hate on Apple.

Very few of the linuxheads I know dislike Apple, in fact.

Turns out they can do cost/benefit calculations, too, and some of them are even aware that their time isn't worthless.)

Kirk Parker said...

Definitely, I'd prefer to remember the hot girl over your product! Duh...

el polacko said...

@doug & sigivald: your personal sexual issues aside, the gay community happens to be a large and loyal market that many businesses have learned to appeal to, to their financial advantage. it IS pretty odd that apple would be so behind the curve.

Mister Snitch! said...

Craig said...
"This is as opposed to all those other advertising campaigns that feature unattractive people, right?"

Best. Comment. Ever. (or at least, the best today and way, way better than the post it comments on)

It's sad that we've reached the point where an Instapundit link has nothing to do with the quality of the post, and EVERYTHING to do with who (cough Althouse relative cough) wrote it.

I remember when Glenn posted on merit, rather than connections, in demonstration of the libertarian principle that the world needed to be more of a meritocracy. 'Army of Davids' and all that, triumphing over old-boy connections.

Boy, has THAT horse ever left the barn.