Apple’s "Get a Mac" Campaign

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Apple’s “Get a Mac” Campaign

In May, 2006, Apple launched the “Get a Mac” campaign, which was aiming to boost sales of its personal computer – Mac. The campaign, as a series of 30-second television and Internet commercials, has lasted for 4 years on TVs and Apple’s website after its debut, and it is still circulating around the Internet today. Judging from its longevity, which is a standard measurement of the success of an advertisement in the advertising industry, the campaign is successful. Besides its longevity, the campaign also gains a lot of applause from marketers, critics, and scholars in the advertising industry and the communication field. It was announced as ‘the best [campaign] of 2000s’ by AdWeek (Livingstone, 2011, p211), and has won several awards, including the Effie Awards, and has been honors as the Most Successful Marketing Campaign of 2007 (Sahoo, 2012). In order to make sense of how this iconic campaign effectively links technology with humanity, this essay will follow Burke’s pentad of dramatistic criticism (Durgchardt, 2010) to figure out how the scene (the white stage background), agent (humanized PC and Mac), act (the interaction between PC and Mac), and agency (PC being aggressive and fogyish versus mac being modest and lay-back) work together to fulfill the creator’s purpose ( to convert PC users who suffered from virus, error messages, and crashes into Mac users and to promote the brand of Apple).

The Scene and Simplicity

Apple is known for its simplicity. From its logo to its product and from its website to its commercials, everything associated with the brand is simple yet accessible. ‘Get a Mac’ campaign is consistent with the image of the brand. It goes for a clear plain-white background and has few props. By utilizing this aesthetic scene that set the tone for the campaign, viewers can recognized right away that it’s a commercial campaign from Apple rather than from other companies. Furthermore, the clean and monotonic background eliminates possible distractors and allows viewers to focus their attention on the agent and the act of the agent.

The Agent: Personified PC and Mac

“Get a Mac” (GAM) campaign overall has 66 individual commercial spots, and each spot start with a line “Hi. I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC”, featuring actor Justin Long (who plays “Mac”) and The Daily Show’s contributor, John Hodgman (who plays “PC”). During each spot of the campaign, viewers would notice the difference between the clothing styles of the two characters immediately. Throughout the campaign, “PC” is always in business attire, wearing shirts, oversized suits and matching ties, as well as leather shoes. He is clean shaved and has an old-fashion haircut. His round eyeglasses and his round body make him look way older than he really is. In contrast, “Mac” is a younger looking man, who always wears casual and comfortable clothing that fit his slim body shape. He has a little beard, which makes him look artistic and laid-back. His haircuts changed a few times throughout the campaign, but they remain trendy and tidy. Judging from their apparel, viewers can presume that “PC” is an nerdy and consummate office guy who has no concern for fashion and sports, and conversely, Mac is more of relax and artistic guy who knows what is trendy and innovative in the world.

Another interesting thing about the style of “PC” and “Mac” is that their clothing style resembles which of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. If you google the images of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs respectively, you would find that Gate wears suit or business casual in every picture, and Jobs wears the iconic black top and blue jean. Based on the resemblance, one can easily associate “PC” with Microsoft (which provides the operating system for every PC) and “Mac” with Apple, even though the campaign didn’t state it out.

With computers, it might be hard to tell the difference between two products at the first glance of the campaign. However, with personified PC and Mac and their different appearance, one can automatically make comparison between the two types of technology. Moreover, it is common for people to judge one’s personality from his or her appearance. The appearance of “PC” and “Mac” provides clues for their personalities and foreshadows their acts in the later part of each spot.

The Act and Agency

The interaction between “PC” and “Mac” is what makes this campaign highly entertaining. In accordance with his nerdy and formal look, “PC” can be identified as a nerdy person who mainly concerns with dealing with numbers and is good at other sorts of work. Taking the spot, “iLife”, as an example. After “Mac” told “PC” about the iLife bundle, which includes many “cool” applications that are built in the Mac, “PC” said he also has some “cool” apps, including the calculator and the clock. Another example would be the spot called “Work vs Home”, in which “Mac” states: “I’m into doing fun stuff like movies, music, podcasts . . . stuff like that” and “PC” goes: “I also do fun stuff, like timesheets and spreadsheets and pie charts” (“Apple COMPLETE "Get a Mac" ad campaign compilation”). Comparing to “PC”, “Mac” seems more enjoy his life by working on “fun” and “cool”, such as making movies and photo albums using applications from iLife. His love for entertainment and creativity can be found through the campaign.

It seems that “PC” is a genius at work but “clearly awkward outside the work context” (Livingstone, 2011). “PC” is occasionally being sarcastic and rude towards “Mac”. For example, in several spots for the holiday seasons (“Good Will”, “Santa Claus”, and “Tree Trimming”), “Mac” is trying to set their differences aside and enjoy the holiday season together with “PC”. However, “PC” never wanted to make peace with “Mac”, instead, he is trying all kinds of way to promote himself or express his grudges towards the “Mac”. Also, in the spot “Misprint”, “PC” tries to file a misprint, which says that a Mac is faster than a PC. Later in the spot, he pretends that his “Mac” (even though “Mac” is standing by his side) and tells the editor: “PC is definitely faster”. In contrast with “PC”, “Mac” is not only good at doing creative works but also shows modesty and a good manner, especially when “PC” does things that are irritating.

Moreover, “PC” always has health issues caused by virus or other kinds of “errors” that slow him down or make him freeze and crash. However, when “PC” is having troubles, “Mac” is always caring, helping, and showing sympathy. For example, in “Restarting”, “Mac” goes to find the I.T. when “PC” has crashed. In “Viruses”, when “PC” is infected by PC viruses and cannot stop sneezing, “Mac” offers “PC” cares and tissues. On the contrary, “PC” never offers “Mac” any help or care. It is not because “PC” is mean or do not care, it is because “Mac” never had a problem.

“PC” is the one who provides the viewers with a lot of sight gags by displaying his insecurity (which is mostly originated from losing buyers and not functioning as well as “Mac”) in a dumb way. For example, he tries to marketing himself by hiring a PR person, who in fact leaning toward “Mac” (“PR Lady”). He also tries to attract college students by camouflaging himself as a box of free pizza (“Pizza Box”). “Mac”, instead, always seems confident and relaxing. He never displayed any anxiety or frustrations like “PC” did, and everything seems so easy and smooth for “Mac”. He sometimes even tries to relieve the anxiety that “PC” has by complimenting and encouraging him (See “Conselor” and “Breakthrough”).

Purpose of “Get a Mac” Campaign

The ultimate goal of this campaign is to “highlight people’s top-of-mind concerns about PCs” (Rhoads, 2007, p4) and to increase the market share of Mac on the PC dominated market. The campaign was proven to successfully increase 42% of Apple’s market share by the end of 2006 (Sahoo, 2012). The “act” and “agency” of “Mac” and “PC” are cleverly constructed and largely contributed to realize the goal of the creator.

As I have mentioned previously, one can immediately assign the label “nerdy” to “PC” and “cool” to “Mac” according to their visual aspects. The “act” and “agency” of the two “agents”, “PC” and “Mac”, further allow viewers to compare and contrast compatibility and reliability between the two different technologies. The structure of comparison and contrast were perfectly summarized by Livingtone (2011) as the Three Thematic Dichotomies, which include “work versus play, sickness versus health, and difficulty versus ease” (p220). According to the previous examples, one can easily identify these three themes. These three main themes highlight the weakness of the Windows personal computers while suggesting that Mac is the alternative that 1) provides features that are better for creative works, 2) features more stable and durable system that would not crash and be infected, and 3) is easy to use. Rhoads (2007) says in his essay that Human judgment is much more easily swayed by negative than positive information. As the campaign constantly highlighting the problems that a PC has, even though it does that in a humorous way, one can be influenced by the negative messages about PCs when making the consumption choice about computers, and potentially choose the durable and compatible Mac, which is the only alternative existing in the market.

Besides, the creator of the campaign utilize the contrast between the personalities of both characters to allow viewers to choose with which group that they side – the conservative old-fashioned, and nerdy “PC” group or the cool, creative, and trendy “Mac” group. Livingstone (2011) says that “mac is the ideal model for a postmodern individual in the information age.” This ideal image of “Mac” impels viewers, who identifies themselves as modern, artistic, and in-trend, to go along with “Mac” rather than with “PC”

In addition to humorously criticizing the functionality of PCs, the campaign also fulfills the purpose of establishing brand identity for Apple. The humanized “Mac” has many likeable personalities, including modest, caring, sympathetic, playful, creative and confident. He is a cool guy that cares about trends and innovations. The creators of the campaign thoughtfully established a positive image of “Mac” to represent the image of Apple. It allows the viewers to attach these qualities with the product and service that Apple could provide, and subtly influences viewers’ consumption decisions.

Apple’s Get a Mac campaign is one of the most viral and innovative campaigns since 1980’s. Although the campaign reached its end at the year of 2010, it has not been forgotten. The sales record of Apple and the awards it won reveal the effectiveness and influence power of the campaign. Through the lens of dramatistic criticism, now we can see the power and effectiveness in derived from the combination of the scene (a simple whiten stage), agent (humanized PC and Mac), act (the interaction between PC and Mac), and agency (PC being aggressive and fogyish vs mac being modest and lay-back) that accomplishes the creator’s purpose (to promote the Macintosh computer as well as the image of Apple).

Livingstone, Randall. Better at Life Stuff: Consumption, Identity, and Class in Apple's ''Get a Mac'' Campaign. Journal of Communication Inquiry 2011 35: 210 originally published online 27 June, 2011. Retrieved form:

DOI: 10.1177/0196859911413469

Sahoo, Debajani. Strategic Change of Campaign at Apple Inc. Vidwat - The Indian Journal of Management. Volume 5. Issue 2.July-December, 2012. Retrieved form

Burgchardt, Carl R. “Dramatistic Criticism.” In Readings in Rhetorical Criticism 4th ed., 237-238. State College, PA: Strata, 2010. Retrieved form

Rhoads, Kelton. Get-A-Mac Campaign Analysis. Working Psychology. 2007. Retrieved form

Apple COMPLETE "Get a Mac" ad campaign compilation, YouTube. Apple, 09 Nov. 2012. Web. May.2013. Retrieved form

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