Apple ads point to funny future

Six or seven years ago, when the Internet bubble was still being inflated, television advertising from IT companies was among the most entertaining segments on the airwaves.

A flood of IT vendor dollars, a need for the widest possible exposure, and a whole lot of imagination all contributed to some memorable moments and helped dispel the mainstream notion of IT as boredom and geekiness. TV commercials told the story that IT was way cool.

Then the balloon went kablooey.

Marketing money dried up and edgy advertising by IT companies went the way of the dodo for a while. The tech sector lost its edginess.

Today, however, there seems to be a return to entertaining tech TV marketing and it can only help to bolster the sector’s somewhat wounded public perception.

The clever string of “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads from Apple leads the charge. Impressive in the simplicity, these TV spots feature a rather portly and poorly dressed doofus representing a PC standing beside a hip twenty-something dude who embodies a Mac. Of course, the Mac continually outsmarts the PC, does not catch viruses, and comes ready made out of the box — all that stuff we’ve been hearing for a while.

No matter what side of the Mac/PC debate you support, it’s hard to deny how catchy the ad has become and how well it asserts the Apple hip brand perception, with a bit of fun.

Is this a return to the heyday of humorous computing hucksterism?

Does anyone recall the famous, “I checked my notebook” commercials from Toshiba, where a hysterical traveling business dork checks his laptop in at the airline luggage counter?

Miraculously, the notebook survives the pounding of transport within the airplane’s cargo hold and a journey along the luggage conveyer.

Just as the Internet was exploding, Microsoft enlisted the service of the Rolling Stones and their tune, “Start Me Up,” to launch Windows 95.

Heck, even staid old Nortel got into the act with a spot showing pucks being shot at a goalie at varying velocities to indicate the difference between their network and that of the competition. Nortel’s puck burned a hole in the mesh, of course.

These types of ads made IT fun and hip. Might others similar to Apple’s current TV campaign create an entertaining mainstream buzz? Do you have a favorite TV tech ad of all time?

E-mail me your thoughts and we’ll print your responses in an upcoming issue.

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