For years, Apple Computer has had to play the perennial underdog in the
computer marketplace. Because of their solid, loyal user base, Apple has been
unwilling to concede the marketplace to Windows-based competitors. The
"Switch" campaign, alternatively titled "Real People," features video
testimonials from former Windows users who saw the light and switched to using
the Mac. Directed by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Thin Blue
Line), the ads have a minimalist style and show the speaker against a solid
white background as light but jumpy music plays in the background.
The ads are not scientific: in most cases, the ads compare brand-new Macs
with older PCs. The "Switch" ads are designed to assuage fears that users'
software will not work on Mac OS, or that the transition will be hard.
The basic structure of a 30-second spot:
- The user explains his/her job or computer needs.
- Why Windows was unsuitable for this work, and/or why Mac OS X is
- Apple logo and URL.
- "My name is (name), and I'm a (job title)."
The first generation of ads started to run in June 2002. As of December
2002, the campaign is still running in print and on television. The ads have
since branched out to include various celebrities and other people in the U.S. and
Japan. Of course, many people started to spoof these ads, highlighting the
bait and switch tactics surrounding the institution of a $99 annual fee for
iTools (now .Mac) and the lack of games on Mac OS X compared with
Windows. Even Apple themselves has spoofed the campaign, producing several ads
featuring comedian Will Ferrell. One of these ads includes Ferrell
introducing himself as a "porn actor." None were aired on television.
Microsoft tried to counter this campaign by running a story on its PR web
site about how one of its employees successfully switched from Macintosh to
Windows. It cited a lot of advantages that Windows has over Mac OS, but was
written like a product brochure instead of a personal anecdote. Furthermore,
the photo of the "author" turned out to be a stock photo from Getty Images.
Shortly after this faux pas was picked up by ZDNet, Slashdot, and other
news organizations, Microsoft withdrew the article without comment. Microsoft
has since disclosed when it is using fictitious stories to support its products
for an example).
Although the ads have been amusing and have thrilled the Mac faithful,
converts to the Mac OS platform have been few and far between. Apple reported
that four out of ten Mac buyers had never owned a Mac before, but did not
elaborate on the number of users who had never owned any computer before.
The ads have struck nerves: a USA TODAY poll on December 16, 2002 reports that
18% of consumers like the ads "a lot," while 17% "dislike" the ads. The age
group most strongly liking the ads is 30-to-39-year-olds (23% like a lot) while
47% of 18- to 24-year-old consumers "dislike" the ads.
A list of ads running as of 12/16/2002:
- Yo-Yo Ma, famous cellist
- Janie Porche, "saved Christmas" by connecting her father's digital camera
to her Powerbook
- Jeremiah Cohick, develops with Mac OS X Server
- Alex Schoknecht, got a USB Zip drive to work on his iBook
- Andy Skowronski, a police officer who burns DVDs
- Bill Swan, who grew to hate Windows
- Richard Ziskin, who runs an umbrella company
- Gautam Godse, who gushes about iPhoto
- Theresa McPherson, a lawyer who uses her Mac "for business and for
- Mark Gibson, a veterinarian whose office is Mac-only
- Jentry Poss, a trucking company owner and gadget lover
- Fabiola Torres, a professor who makes documentaries with iMovie
- Gianni Jacklone, a fast-talking IT manager who used his UNIX and
Linux training to decide on a Mac purchase
- Tony Hawk, a professional skateboarder
- Kelly Slater, a professional surfer
- DJ Qbert, a scratch DJ who mixes music on the Mac
- De La Soul, for whom the Mac makes the music go "Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!"
- Hamilton Morris, a bass-voiced teenager who favors an iPod over CDs
- Ellen Feiss, an airy 14-year-old who has attracted a cult following of
devoted fans on the Internet
The four Japanese spots: