Attack Ads, Sincerest Form of Flattery: Gateway Trash Talks iMac

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Date: Tuesday, August 27th, 2002, 10:32
Category: Archive

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Gateway is pitting its new all-in-one machine, which we can only call “differently attractive” or “aesthetically challenged” from the pictures on their site, against Apple’s iMac. Gateway is also launching an attack ad campaign parodying the Pixar iMac ads, CNET reports. Gateway is estimating some 83% of American adults will see the ads in September. (Quick, everyone, boycott your TV!) Gateway’s Profile 4 goes as far as doing backflips over iMacs and spitting out its “tongue” (its drive) at the iMac.

The ads claim the Profile4 is priced lower than iMac and has, says CNET, “great memory.” Check the specs for yourself: not anything revolutionary here, particularly when Apple retains the low-end CRT iMac on its price list, has the eMac, and offers high-end options like DVD burning and the new wide 17″ screen.

Bottom line? The Gateway campaign is good news for Apple. Seriously. Former CEO John Sculley demonstrated that a race between IBM and Apple would ultimately benefit Apple. While these articles refer to the PC-smashing (literally) 1984 and Lemmings ads Apple spent millions on, they forget that Apple, like Gateway now, parodied IBM’s Chaplin ads in ads attacking the PCjr and touting the benefits of the Apple IIe. Apple’s ability to paint itself as the “alternative” computer helped it survive the economic fallout in 1985 that wiped out other manufacturers, and Apple under Sculley in the late 80s sold more computers than and at any other time in its history, including the recent renaissance under Jobs — a sales explosion partly fueled not by the Mac, but the cheaper, education-savvy Apple II. At a time when Apple is struggling with low single-digit market share, Gateway’s ads ironically lend the Mac additional credibility as the alternative machine and feed directly into Apple’s “Switch” campaign. Profile4 buyers who would more likely be comparing the machine to cheap PC towers might now have to consider the iMac as its competitor and compare that way — meaning Gateway will have to explain to its customers why the iMac’s slick design and gorgeous, simple OS X software appears so much cooler. (I speak from experience: try taking computer novices into both stores and see which machine they respond to!)

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