Opinion: Mac advertising masterpieces and missteps

A dozen dazzling and dopey Mac ads from the past 25 years

"I'm a Mac; I'm a PC" collection

Year: 2006 to the present

There's no need to summarize this campaign -- we all know it inside and out. There are at least 40 ads in this series by now, and that's not counting the versions prepared for foreign markets. The "I'm a Mac; I'm a PC" exchange is so deeply embedded in consumer consciousness that you can find dozens of parodies, ranging from "I'm a Marvel; I'm a DC" to South Park-style takeoffs, not to mention direct responses from the Mac's competition.

It's the rare advertising campaign that manages to transcend its content in this way -- to become a cultural touchstone that anyone can reference without explanation and yet maintain the connection to a product. The "I'm a Mac" series will be taught in college marketing courses as a classic example of powerful brand-building.

The future of Mac advertising is as up in the air as the future of Apple and the Mac itself. After several false starts, the Mac now has an established image and persona, so the message probably won't be as scattershot as what we've seen over the first quarter-century. (We probably won't see any more guys in ties posing stiffly with their Macs.)

But next time you read a rumor about what new product Apple's going to introduce, spare a moment to think about how it will market that product. Because it certainly will.

Read our full coverage: The Apple Macintosh: 25 years and still going strong

San Francisco-based Jake Widman is a frequent contributor to Computerworld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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