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'Get a Mac' ads face challenges overseas

updated 01:10 pm EST, Thu March 1, 2007

Apple ads overseas

Apple's 'Get a Mac' ad campaign was a hit in the U.S., but the company's efforts to bring that advertisement overseas to the U.K. and Japan conjured up additional difficulties. The ads, which in the U.S. depict a young, hip Justing Long as the "Mac" interacting with an older, office-dwelling John Hodgman as the "PC" struck a chord with Americans. The ads depict the Mac besting his PC counterpart in various situations, usually expressing compassion for the PC when he crashes or catches a "virus." Those same ads would offend most Japanese citizens, however, because in Japan direct comparison advertisements are looked down upon. Japanese culture considers it rude to brag about one's strengths, according to the Wall Street Journal, while the advertisements in the U.K. seemed too arrogant for the taste of some viewers. One columnist in particular said Apple tried to be too cool, and delivered a series of "brutal" coordinated attacks.

"When you see the ads you think 'PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately loveable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers," wrote Charlie Brooker of the Guardian.

Shortly after Apple's 'Get a Mac' ads were released in the U.K., a YouGov poll found that respect for Apple fell in that region. The study surveyed 2,000 people about their perceptions of the Apple brand as measured on a scale from 1 to 100. Apple fell in that study from 14 to 8 in the five days after its ads first aired.

"There was nothing else happening that we know of that would have moved the figure," said Sundip Chahal, brand index director at YouGov.

Apple also may have lost some of its intended meaning in the actors' clothing with regard to its Japanese ads, as some Japanese viewers who haven't adopted America's "office casual" movement pointed out.

"The Mac guy looks like he is wearing Uniqlo, the Gap, or Muji. These say simple and low cost -- low-end brands," said Linda Kovarik, executive planning director of P&G's ad agency Beacon Communications. With regard to the PC guy resembling a nerd, "They're really quite revered now in Japanese culture," she said.

by MacNN Staff





  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969



    ...those who put faith in or would be so moved by such advertising would seem suspect to begin with...

  1. trevj

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re. sheep

    Apple doesn't expect to pull the wool over anyone's eyes with those ads (or any other), but it is all part of a branding process, getting Apple's name out there. Being seen, being heard.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    like the victory sign

    it's important to know how that particular culture interprets it before committing to delivery in that market. If you don't do your research, you can get shoot yourself in the foot. A new campaign is in order for the market/s in question.

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Joined: Dec 1969



    quote: PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately loveable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers

    is that good or bad...what just happened? Translation please?

  1. zulfikarn

    Joined: Dec 1969



    basically that means the brits love losers, being successful is really not seen in a good light, and yes quite a lot of people make do (with for example PC's) because they don't think the best is necessarily meant for them.

    I'm sure most americans wouldn't understand.

  1. vasic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    translation into what?

    Klingon? If English isn't your mother tongue (it surely isn't mine), there are ways to find out what 'flying meat' wanted to say:

    If the words you can't understand are slang (American, British, Aussie...), just google it!

    Ultimately it is the translation where these ads get so hopelessly lost. After so many decades of transnational businesses and global advertising, you'd think somebody would do some research into local cultural perceptions before deploying any kind of ad. Even the switcher campaign (I'm sure we all remember Ellen Feiss) didn't exactly kill with some non-American audiences.

    Well, someone will have to build a better mouse trap.

  1. PBG4 User

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re:like the victory sign

    This reminds me of the time the dairy board tried their "Got Milk?" campaign in Mexico. The translation was poor and in Spanish their ad read "Are you lactating?"

    Then there's the whole Chevy Nova debacle. In latin based languages, no va means no go. Would you want to buy a car called the no go?

  1. bigpoppa206

    Joined: Dec 1969


    you mean

    Justin Long?

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    victory sign revisited

    "After telling the press he was an expert in hand gestures, George Bush gave the "V-for-Victory" sign as he drove in his armored limousine past demonstrators in Canberra, Australia's capital in January 1992. In Australia, holding up two fingers to form a "V" has the same vulgar meaning as the middle-finger gesture in the United States. The Aussie demonstrators were very mad, and they signaled in the same manner back at the U.S. President. Bush later apologized"

  1. Sosa

    Joined: Dec 1969



    This is quite surprising, that Japanese and British culture do not enjoy these commercials as we do. I wonder what percetanges of the respective populations find them distasteful. Why would in these two capitalist societies making light fun of the weaknesses of a competing product be distasteful?

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