From Mac to Snapdragon: The Evolution of TECH Endorsements

If it’s not the gadgets and software that excite us the most in our ever-accelerating, technologically-transformed world, then it’s certainly the creative marketing tactics that the companies behind them come up with to promote them. APPLE is a longtime innovator both in terms of the technology it creates; but also in the stories it tells us about that technology, when it tries to convince us to buy it. So we might be forgiven for being surprised that the unassuming actor Justin Long, long-term spokesman for APPLE’s ‘I’m a MAC’ adverts, has apparently made the switch to pretending to sell his ex-company’s rivals’ PCs. His latest pitch is for Qualcomm Snapdragon PC.

The Legendary "I'm a MAC/I'm a PC" Ads

In the days before the girls learned to drive, APPLE ran a series of ads in which the actor Justin Long was the MAC, while the author John Hodgman was the PC. There were 66 ads (and hundreds that were filmed but never aired), and when the series ended in late 2012, a survey found that 89 per cent of the US, UK and Canadian population who’d seen the ads still remembered them. The ads featured a cool, calm MAC user taking on a flustered PC user in an apparent friendly rivalry over which operating system was better. Thanks to those ads, APPLE had come to be associated with user-friendly, attractive-looking and reliable computing equipment.

Snapdragon Seizes the MAC Guy

And in the sort of end-of-an-era gag that just goes to show how cyclical and interdependent the world of tech can be, Qualcomm has now hired Justin Long – the erstwhile MAC guy, previously of the ‘Hello, I’m a MAC’ advertising campaigns – to shill for its Snapdragon PCs. It’s quite a pivot for Long, who just a few months ago was espousing the merits of a direct competitor in the very space he’s now trying to convince people to jump to. Qualcomm’s ad mocks Long switching from a MAC for a Snapdragon PC – essentially using the gag from a bygone era to hawk what may well be the hardware of the next. Either of these products can be funny – or rather, can be used to create a funny campaign ad – for very different reasons.

The Cringe Factor

While the move to hire a known figure in tech for their advertisements can be seen as a savvy marketing move, Qualcomm’s iteration was deemed by many to be borderline cringeworthy. It’s an attempt to leverage a known face from one of APPLE’s most successful campaigns, but it also risks turning off those resonant with the old MAC vs PC advertisements.

Why Snapdragon?

Qualcomm’s pitch, as Long swears at whatever has gone wrong with his MAC’s notifications and alert settings, playfully stresses the ease of use and efficiency that Snapdragon ARM PCs are meant to provide. It’s a sales pitch that seems amplified in Qualcomm’s epic keynote, where the fact that the new chip will supposedly get rid of those kinds of nuisances is just one part of it; the ad focuses instead on the bigger, more relatable picture that proclaims that technologies are always changing and, in this particular case, now evolving from x86 to ARM.

The APPLE and Qualcomm Tug-of-War

Beneath this actor-swap endorsement drama, however, is the complicated relationship between APPLE and Qualcomm. Having been embroiled in a nasty lawsuit over how much licensing fees APPLE should pay for Qualcomm modem chips, APPLE is now trying to build its own chips, though a deal with Qualcomm goes through at least 2027. In all, Qualcomm’s latest marketing showdown with APPLE suggests that the fight between the big tech companies goes well beyond the courtroom.

APPLE's Persistent Legacy

For all the jockeying for dominance and promo posturing, APPLE’s history as a proto-technological and advertising icon shows no sign of going away. Those first ‘I’m a MAC/I’m a PC’ ads were as much about APPLE’s creative product design chops as they were about its storytelling knack – its ability to produce narratively driven, pertinently personal promotions that consumers breathe life into.

Exploring APPLE

Back in 1976, three young entrepreneurs – Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne – established a small business in Cupertino, California, which has since made the garage-conceived APPLE a giant business of global dimensions. The company, whose slogan is ‘Think Different’, is known for its design, user interface and technology. APPLE’s products, from the iPhone to the MAC, iPad and Macintosh, set the pattern for the electronics industry; and remain at the leading edge of product design and technology. The company’s ethos of ‘design, innovation and quality’ continue to foster a culture that revolutionises the way we live and work.

The Jilting of Justin Long

The jilting of Justin Long was only a sword-swapping in the epic of tech, but the twists and turns of the marketplace and the rivalries between tech giants intensify that epic and make the long game more exciting to watch.

Jun 06, 2024
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