Gladys Santiago

The Underlying “1984” Elements in Apple’s PC Switcher Banner Ad

Posted in Advertising by Gladys Santiago on November 2, 2009

Apple PC Switcher Ad

The above screenshot of the New York Times homepage shows a video banner ad for Apple.  In the ad, PC and Mac observe PC users as they enter Apple stores and make the switch to a Mac.  PC and Mac engage in the usual, light-heartedly competitive banter that is expected of these ads as PC neurotically stresses over its current users deciding to purchase Macs since an upgrade to Windows 7 would involve needing to transfer all their files to the new operating system anyway.  PC mentions Mac ranking first in customer satisfaction and then appears in one of the “PC Switcher” surveillance monitors to physically stop consumers from entering the Apple store.  The banner doesn’t veer away from the iconic and oft parodied style of TBWA’s “Mac vs. PC” campaign, but it does seem to reference the company’s classic 1984 ad in a way that kind of portrays Apple as a hegemonic power.

Like the 1984 ad, a continuous stream of people are seen marching walking towards Apple stores.  The placement of the white, seemingly glowing Apple logo at the top, center of the screens is remarkably similar to the image below, where the drones stare mindlessly at a giant, illuminating screen.  The 1984 drones are nameless and indistinguishable from one another, compared to the silent and faceless, yet diverse (demographically speaking) consumer masses approaching Apple stores.  I mention demographics because I’m pretty sure that showing men and women of various races was strategic. 

Apple 1984 Ad

Much of PC and Mac’s attention is on the surveillance monitors, which not surprisingly  depict the some-what robotic consumer arrivals to Apple stores in a drab, army green hue.  It’s as if these consumers are relegated to a separate world that is more similar to the cold, lifeless existence portrayed in 1984 than the casual and bright minimalist setting “Mac vs. PC” ads are normally set in.  The most obvious similarity of the banner ad to 1984 is the theme of being watched.  It’s unclear if the viewer is supposed to believe that PC setup the monitors, but that is beside the point because the visual inclusion of the monitors screams “big brother is watching you.”  In addition, both PC and Mac act a voyeurs of computer-buying habits as they both observe commerce in progress.  In attempts of curbing switches to Apple, PC enters the world of the monitored and becomes monitored himself as Mac watches in a non-threatening indifference as if to say, “Go about your business.  Pretend I’m not here,” all the meanwhile paying close attention to the unquestioning devotion that his cool facade created.

Apple 1984 Ad

Does ’30 Rock’ Promote or Mock Windows?

Posted in Marketing, Media, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on October 27, 2009

Microsoft Windows - 30 Rock - Into the Crevasse
In the above scene, Jack and several writers diligently work with an engineer to design a microwave that will increase GE’s revenue.  The Microsoft Windows logo is visible on the engineer’s laptop, which is unusual considering that the majority of Windows-based computers are branded with the manufacturer’s logo (i.e. Dell, HP).  Even more unusual is that 30 Rock frequently features Apple products–both Jack and Liz use Apple computers.  In the past, the show has even disclosed Apple as a promotional sponsor in its credits.  Naturally, the Windows occurrence has invited speculation as to whether or not it was a paid-for placement.

The episode in question, “Into the Crevasse,” aired on October 22nd, which is also when Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 7, was released.  The laptop placement is not merely a coincidence as Microsoft has announced an extensive integration deal with Fox’s Family Guy.  Before pulling out of sponsoring a commercial-free airing of the raunchy animated series, Microsoft praised the “subversive and unique humor” of Family Guy.  Microsoft was obviously open to experimenting with its brand integration so it’s certainly plausible to believe that the company approached 30 Rock with a sponsorship offer. 

Even though the Microsoft-branded laptop is a fictional product, it promotes the company and serves to remind viewers of Windows 7.  In that sense, it’s a typical product placement, but I believe Tina Fey and the other geniuses over at 30 Rock cleverly included subtle commentary that portrays Windows in a negative way.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the Windows laptop was used by the engineer to create a mockup of microwave that had the potential to save GE from financial ruin.  Instead, the engineer, following the suggestions of Jack and the writers, designs a Pontiac Aztek,  which has been credited as being one of General Motors’ biggest mistakes.  As the Aztek appears on the screen of the Windows laptop, I can’t help, but feel that the presentation of a notably failed product, implicitly highlights Microsoft’s shortcomings.  Ultimately Jack’s pursuit of creating an innovative microwave was a failure and that failure was executed on a Windows-based laptop.  Jack’s failure can even be associated with that Windows laptop.  The writer’s, who are normally inundated with ideas, are only able to offer Jack and the engineer half-brained suggestions.

This episode, hardly featured any Apple products — I actually, only spotted one Apple occurrence.  Apple computers, which are associated with creativity, were lacking as were innovative suggestions to solve GE problem.  Sure, I realize this whole plot point was meant to poke fun at GM, but it critiqued Microsoft as well.

Apple Product Placements in Wall-E

Posted in Media, Product Placements by Gladys Santiago on July 1, 2008

It seems Wall-E  has taken product placements to new heights with its many references to Apple.  Pixar, which made the animated film, used to be owned by Steve Jobs (via: NYT’s “Wall-E: An Homage to Mr. Jobs“.  There are many subtle and clever nods to Apple products and SlashFilm.com is currently keeping track of them.  Click here to add to its growing list of Easter eggs.