Apple chases sorely needed ad magic with reshuffle

Apple: the biggest brand, and some average ads
Apple: the biggest brand, and some average ads

Apple poaching creative heavyweight Tor Myhren to oversee its ad strategy has caused waves in the advertising world, and the timing couldn't be better.

Marketing recently noted that Apple's advertising has lacked punch of late, bar the occasional inspired spot from its agency, TBWA\Media Arts Lab. 

Only a company with products and a brand as strong as Apple's could ever have got away with doing mostly very average work over the years

Recent TV ads for the Apple Watch have not done a great job of explaining the benefits of the device and, visually, the campaign is a poor relation of the 2003 iPod silhouette ads.

Consumers have also complained about the aggressiveness of Apple's marketing for the Apple Watch, with the firm forcibly installing an undeletable Apple Watch app onto iPhones with the iOS 8.2 update. 

More recently, iPhone owners have been complaining of full-screen ads popping up when they open the App Store app, encouraging them to upgrade. It's a strange move given Apple has also just allowed device owners with iOS 9 to install ad-blockers for the first time.

Lastly, there is Apple Music. Apple has done relatively little to promote the service or explain what it actually does, instead focusing on marketing 'wins' over rivals, such as landing exclusive content from Taylor Swift. 

A tighter focus

Could Myhren inject some much-needed strategy and pep into Apple's ads? In his new role, he will oversee all advertising, including video, motion graphics, interactive web design, packaging and retail store displays.

Kevin Chesters, executive planning director at ad agency mcgarrybowen, says: "Only a company with products and a brand as strong as Apple's could ever have got away with doing mostly very average work over the years. The hiring of Tor Myhren as the new vice-president of marketing at Apple is a very good start."

Chesters describes Myhren as a "worryingly smart and unfairly brilliant mind", adding: "He should, hopefully, force everyone internally and externally to up their game a bit and to start to create campaigns that do justice to the quality of the products they advertise."

Apple isn't the first high-profile tech brand to poach a famous creative name from the industry, with Chesters pointing to Airbnb chief marketing officer Jonathan Mildenhall, who joined from Coca-Cola, and Facebook UK and Ireland director Steve Hatch as examples of a wider trend.

Myhren's recruitment shouldn't be viewed in isolation. Phil Schiller, global marketing chief at Apple, will take on greater responsibility for the App Store and developer-led activities. The business was formerly led by software chief, Eddie Cue. 

There's also the promotion of Johny Srouji, who leads Apple's team of silicon engineers, to Apple's executive team. His promotion highlights the importance of Apple's ability to design custom chips for specific new features on the iPhone, such as the screen flash on the iPhone 6S.

According to Patrick Moorhead, president at Moor Insights and Strategy, that capability could restore another missing element to Apple's marketing.

"They can be first to market with the coolest features in total secrecy," he told the Financial Times.

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