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Apple ads make big impressions, rival big firms'

Some products manage to maintain the personality and status of a big brand that raises them above their relatively small market share.

Snapple, Kia, Sprint and Apple are not the leaders in their product categories, but they manage to act like it in their ads. Even with smaller ad budgets than many of their bigger rivals, good execution establishes a big brand image:

  • It's what's inside. Snapple pioneered non-conformity in beverage ads by pitching itself as a quirky upstart in a cola world - first with Wendy the Snapple Lady, then with little fruits in training to be Snapple ingredients. New ads by Deutsch in New York personify the trademark bottles of the No. 3 non-carbonated brand with tiny wigs and accessories.
  • Rolling along. Kia entered the U.S. car market in 1994 and is the No. 20 brand with a tiny 1.5% share. But it has made its presence felt with funny ads pitching small price tags and big (100,000 miles) warranties to its target: young and independent consumers.
  • A clear message. Sprint, No. 4 in wireless and No. 3 in long-distance, has sent a clear message about its wireless brand's clear signal. In long-running ads by Publicis Hal Riney in San Francisco, Sprint Guy Brian Baker tirelessly saves folks from miscommunication resulting from cell phone usage. In the latest ad, tied to Men in Black II, the Sprint Guy counsels three alien worms about a call for tangerines that was heard as a request for trampolines.

But perhaps the all-time leader for small brand, big identity is Apple. Since its breakthrough "1984" ad, in which a woman challenges the status quo by taking a sledgehammer to a huge TV screen, Apple has collected 5% of the personal computer market. And creative ads continue to keep it in consumers' minds.

A prime example is the ad Apple used to launch the flat-screen iMac.

In Ad Track, USA TODAY's exclusive weekly consumer poll, 42% like the ads "a lot" - the highest score of any ad this year.

The ad, by agency TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, shows a hip, young man on the street whose eye is caught by an iMac in a store window. As he stares at it, the computer stares back by jutting out its pivotal thin screen.

As the man gestures, he realizes the computer is copying his every move with its screen. He tries something he thinks that the computer cannot imitate. But when he sticks out his tongue, the ever-capable iMac responds by sticking out the disk drive in its base - just as an elderly passerby notices the odd exchange.

"It's a very simple message," says Steve Jobs, Apple CEO. "We wanted to show one of the computer's most wonderful features is its flat display that can be adjusted to any position you want. The commercial communicates the personality of the product and the incredible flat display."

Personality has been a hallmark of Apple ads. Recently, the company began a $75 million campaign to communicate the personality of Mac through the personalities of some new users, all former PC/Windows users.

The unpaid endorsers, all real people, talk about ease of use and simplicity as they share their stories of becoming Mac users. The "switchers" in the simple ads include a Windows network administrator, a disc jockey, a writer and a programmer.

Having ads that work and consumers like is key for the smaller player in a competitive market. But Jobs says that in the end it all comes down to the product.

"If people like the advertising, it's nowhere near as wonderful as if they like our products," Jobs says.


Theresa Howard, USA TODAY. July 14, 2002

Copyright © 2002 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.