‘Think Different’ ad man explains why Samsung’s anti-Apple advertising is working

Samsung ad (iPhone 5 launch 001)

Apple, the world’s greatest marketing machine, is no longer untouchable. That’s the sentiment shared by Ken Segall, the former creative director at advertising firm TBWAChiatDay, the guy who came up with the name “iMac” and worked alongside Steve Jobs on Apple’s famous Think Different campaign. In a post over at his personal blog, Segall opined that Samsung’s commercials are getting the best out of Apple and he offers two reasons why that’s the case…

He wrote Monday after The Oscars:

Apple’s advertising history is as famous as its products. But something’s changed. While you can still argue that Macs and i-devices have a ton of appeal, you can’t argue that Apple is still untouchable when it comes to advertising.

“The fact is, it is being touched – often and effectively – by none other than Samsung,” Segall wrote. “Samsung has made remarkable inroads in a very short time, for two big reasons.”

For starters, he remarks, Apple is “battling where it used to crush” because Samsung outspends the Cupertino giant and other companies – and by a large margin, too.

According to independent analyst Horace Dediu, Samsung is spending a fortune – an estimated $12 billion a year – on advertising, commissions and sales promotions. Specifically, Samsung Electronics spends more on advertising than Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Microsoft and Coca Cola (whose primary cost is advertising) combined spend on ads promoting all their products.

Of course, Samsung Electronics also sells TVs, refrigerators and a bunch of other products, but Dediu etimates that Samsung’s other divisions don’t require as much marketing expense, leading him to conclude that “the vast majority of this promotional spending has been in support of their mobile brands, Galaxy in particular.”

And second, Samsung isn’t afraid to openly mock Apple users in ads, which “seem to be striking a nerve”, Segall opined.

The company continues to bash away at Apple, delivering ads that are well produced, well written, and seem to be striking a nerve. In contrast to Apple, which has been sticking to its product-based ads, Samsung has been scoring points with its people-based ads – most of which play off some growing negative perceptions about Apple.

Segall points to Apple’s failed retail campaign featuring Apple Store Geniuses that aired during the Olympics as an example of advertising gone wrong.

The last time Apple tried to stir things up was when it unveiled a brand-new campaign during the summer Olympics. And you know how that turned out.

The Apple Store campaign crashed after Apple quietly pulled the Genius commercials from YouTube. He also remarks that Samsung during the Oscars aired a series of ads while Apple only aired the new iPad commercial during the broadcast.

Here’s Apple’s ‘Hollywood’ iPad ad seen during the Academy Awards ceremony.


And one of Samsung’s ad featuring a Tim Burton cameo.


Segall writeS:

On this first day after the Oscars, there’s some buzz out there about the [new iPad] ads. But for the first time ever, Apple is struggling to get its share. Samsung continues to gain momentum, thanks to its double-barreled approach of creativity and big spending.

He likened Apple to President Barack Obama after his first debate against Republican challenger Mitt Romney in last year’s U.S. election:

I imagine Apple is feeling a bit like Obama after his first debate with Romney. It deeply believes in its ideas; it just needs to express them more forcefully.

He thinks Apple should “recalibrate” its approach to advertising:

There are too many smart people at Apple and Chiat to take this lying down. I expect to see Apple do exactly what Obama did. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and it’s time to recalibrate.

It all started back in November 2011, shortly following the iPhone 4S announcement the previous month, when Samsung debuted its now famous ads which mock line sitters.

The bashing continued last holiday with the Galaxy S III ads and into this year with new commercials that take light jabs at iPhone users while ridiculing BlackBerry owners.

The opportunity presented itself, explained Samsung’s ad agency 72andSunny which came up with the anti-iPhone commercials just hours after Tim Cook took the wraps off the iPhone 4S. Here 72andSunny’s partner and creative director Jason Norcross discussing the creative process behind these ads with Bloomberg TV.


As a fanboy, I’d rather Samsung didn’t mock Apple users. Be that as it may, Samsung’s Christmas ad was arguably more memorable than any other tech ad I’ve seen.

I like innovative advertising as much as the next guy and Apple itself is no stranger to poking fun of its rivals (hint: Mac vs. PC ads), but it’s usually a worrying sign when two companies attack each other publicly with ads.

By the way, Ken Segall is also the author of “Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success”, a book on Apple that focuses on the company’s Simplicity mantra.

So, do Samsung’s ads cross the line and is the anti-Apple theme childish?

And more importantly, will the strategy backfire?