Should Apple use CEO Steve Jobs in their TV commercials? Hellz no!

Tue, Jul 28, 2009

Analysis, News

MacYourself has an article up arguing that Apple should feature CEO Steve Jobs in  TV commercials as a means to promote Mac and iPhone sales.  We happen to disagree.

The article points out that a number of other companies have successfully featured their CEO’s in commercials, such as Dave Thomas from Wendys and Frank Perdue of Perdue Farms, who both appeared in hundreds of televised ads.  The problem is that successful CEO cameos are the exception and not the rule, and tend to work only in cases where companies are trying to evoke notions of familiarity and family togetherness – which is why they work great for restaurants and food producers.

But technology is a completely different ballgame, and the reasons why CEO cameos work for food-related companies don’t carry over to the tech sector.  Most recently, Sprint ran a number of ads featuring CEO Dan Hesse, but the ad campaign was ultimately abandoned after it became obvious via user-feedback that users quickly grew weary of seeing Hesse over and over again.

The article correctly points out Jobs’ unique and eloquent ability to make new products seem unbelievably cool, but the reason his presentations are so effective is because he’s a master presenter who can skillfully build up suspense.  Take Jobs’ iPhone introduction from Macworld 2007, for example.  It was arguably the greatest product introduction he’s ever done and it took well over 30 minutes.  There’s no way that Jobs, in 30 second to 1 minute commercial intervals, would be able to deliver the same level of charm that people often refer to as the reality distortion field.

That said, Jobs is an extremely sharp guy who is quick with a salient point and usually good for a great soundbite even in small doses.  But Apple doesn’t really need Jobs to help sell its products.  For starters, the reason people listen when Jobs speaks is because he doesn’t speak that often.  If Steve Jobs is discussing something in public, you can bet that it’s important, and using him in advertisements would only dilute the aura that he’s attained over the past few years.

Second, and more importantly, Apple isn’t Steve Jobs.  Apple is about delivering amazing products that enhance people’s lives.  It focuses on products that speak for themselves.  From Apple’s perspective, it wants to deliver products that are so good that it won’t need to leverage Steve Jobs in order to make a sale.

Third, Steve Jobs may be well-known to anyone who follows tech, and his name might be somewhat familiar to the public at large, but it’s important to keep in mind that most people are not only unaware of who Jobs is, but probably don’t care either.  Consumers don’t care why Steve Jobs thinks the iPhone is great, they’re more interested in all the cool things they can do with the iPhone, and Apple doesn’t need Steve Jobs popping up in commercials to relay that information.

The article notes that using Jobs in a commercial “might even alleviate some of the snobbish, cult-like stereotypes surrounding their product users.”  We’d actually argue that it would do the exact opposite.  Apple users are already wrongly labeled as consumers who purchase products “to be cool”, and Jobs in a commercial would probably inspire more inane assertions such as,  “When Steve Jobs says jump, all you Apple users say ‘how high’?”

Don’t get us wrong, it’s not like the sky would fall if Jobs started appearing in Apple commercials, we just feel that it makes no sense from an advertising and business perspective.  Also, given Jobs’ recent leave of absence from Apple, and the public’s obsession with his health, Jobs’ message would likely be overshadowed by those looking to analyze how healthy Jobs looks from commercial to commercial.


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