Apple's new iPad TV ads put apps at the heart of the tablet wars

Apple [AAPL] published two new iPad ads ('Alive' and 'Together') last night. In both ads, the company focuses on what the product can do -- the company hasn't yet stooped to respond to its competitors with ads campaigns that mock them.

Apple's app attack

The two ads are the customary laid-back Apple ad spot. With a white background and well-chosen backing music, the spots show multiple apps running on the iPad's screen, with words popping up between spots to reinforce some of the positive associations of the product.

The ads are cool, relatively inoffensive, and discreet -- the company just takes a few seconds to suggest what an iPad can do, with a particular focus on apps.

Given Apple CEO, Tim Cook's reference to the 170,000 apps already optimized for use on an iPad, it looks like the company intends taking on competitors by stressing just how many apps are available for its tablet, in comparison to others.

"So what happened last year, everybody that was in the PC industry and everybody that was in the phone industry, everybody decided they had to do a tablet. By some estimates, there were a hundred tablets put on the market last year. Everybody was kind of aiming at iPad 1, and we were trying to innovate quickly to get to iPad 2. So, by the time they had something that they thought could compete with iPad 1, we were on iPad 2. We wound up with 170,000 apps, and I'm not sure there's 100 yet on the other platform," he told Goldman Sachs last week.

Apple's ad campaign claims 300,000 apps.

Forbes loses Apple religion

Apple being Apple, Forbes, which seems to have become a haven for anti-Apple sentiment in recent weeks, almost immediately published a deeply subjective op-ed in which the author asked, "What's wrong with Apple's TV ads lately?"

My first reaction to this report was to ask "What's wrong with Forbes?", but the author's point (other than attempting to annoy Apple fans) seems to be to bring in a spurious mention of Google while calling for Apple to "get back to its (advertising) roots," whatever that means. He thinks these latest Apple ads are "ordinary".

The Forbes' author's motivation may smply be to attract criticism and traffic from Apple fans, but he may have inadvertently struck a chord -- despite their market-leading position and incredible popularity, Apple's tablet ads just aren't much loved by the US TV-viewing public.

An Ace Metrix review of the top tablet ads of 2012 (published in September) claimed ads for Apple's iPad didn't even make it into the top ten tablet ads last year. All ten slots were occupied by clips from Samsung, Google and Amazon, proof that the three company's weren't completely wasting their huge investments in product marketing.

Samsung product marketing

While many Apple critics love to claim the success of Apple's products is down to "marketing", the truth is very different -- Samsung spends far more on ads than Coca Cola and coughed up four times the ads spend Apple did last year, according to Asymco.

Clearly then the success of Android products can also be attributed to marketing -- except, in the case of tablets, this hasn't yet worked.

Apple's move to point to the strength of its apps ecosystem for tablets in its latest ambient ad campaign is an attempt to illustrate one of its biggest advantages against others at the tablet table: the apps.

You could argue that a wide range of apps has been crucial to the development of the smartphone industry. Apple hopes that, by maintaining the lion's share of the iPad maket, it will be able to continue to keep developers developing for iOS users. The latest ads show the diversity of the available solutions to people choosing the market-leading tablet.

Ace Metrix CEO, Peter Daboll, predicted Apple's move to attempt to subtly differentiate itself within its product marketing last year, when he said:

"Apple is faced with a real challenge in how to differentiate and articulate its benefits, like a retina display, for example."

Playing to unique strengths

Apple knows that display quality can be imitated. The latest campaign shows it is ready to stress its unique advantages.  The company's hard to emulate apps ecosystem gives it the chance to explain how much more useful an iPad can be in comparison to any other tablet. This message sits at the heart of this latest wide advertising push by the company.

AppleInsider this weekend confirmed the company has launched a new billboard campaign promoting the apps empire. Each billboard shows apps running on an iPad, with an adjective (as used in the TV spots) and the slogan, "300,000 apps for everything you love".

Ads campaigns like these take time to build and this one's clearly been in the works for a while. Launching the iPad last year, Apple's marketing chief, Phil Schiller (who would probably love to spend a Samsung-like marketing budget) noted the "night and day" difference between apps optimized for an iPad and those stretched smartphone apps that don't work so well that people using other tablets need to endure.

Rise above

Unlike Samsung, Apple hasn't so far stooped to name-calling its competitors, or their fans. Were it to choose to do so, it may wish to take a look at the security (or the lack of it) that afflicts users of Google Play.

A report the search giant acted to control last week pointed out that every time an Android user purchases an app on Google Play, that users name, address and email is passed on to the developer.

The report was originally published with the headline: "Massive Google security flaw puts users' details on display for all to find." Google objected at use of the word "massive", and argued that this sharing of personal data without knowledge of Google Play customers was not a flaw, as it was by design.

Nonetheless, it is interesting the company moved to get the headline changed, but has so far declined that report's author a statement explaining the issues raised.

(Signing off, does anyone else out there think that claims Apple plans an iWatch make its November 2012 decision to pay $21 million to Swiss national rail operator, SBB, for use of its famous clock face with the iOS Clock app a little easier to understand?)

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