Inside Apple's Marcom meeting
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Apple exec emails ad agency
On Jan 25, 2013, at 8:14 PM, Philip Schiller wrote:
We have a lot of work to do to turn this around....
Has Apple Lost Its Cool to Samsung?
By IAN SHERR and EVAN RAMSTAD
On Jan 26, 2013, at 6:06 PM, James Vincent wrote:
absolutely. we feel it too and it hurts. we understand the totally critical nature of this moment. this perfect storm of factors is driving a chilling negative narrative on apple.
in the last few days we have began developing some bigger ideas for apple, where advertising can absolutely help to begin to change this narrative to a more positive one, particularly if they are seen as part of a broader effort within the company.
so, we would like to propose a few major changes in how we work these next few weeks to respond to this huge challenge we face.
here's 3 big areas to discuss ..
1. our company-wide response:
it's clear that the questions about apple are at multiple levels and are written about as such. the biggest one's are ..
a) company behavior - how should we behave ? (lawsuits, china/usa workers, too rich, giveback)
b) product roadmap - whats our next innovation ? .. (bigger screens, new look software, maps, product cycles)
c) advertising - change the conversation ? (iPhone 5 difference, competitive de-positioning, apple brand slipping)
d) sales approach - new tactics ? (utilizing carriers, in-store, spiffs, retail approach)
so, we would like to propose convening an emergency meeting similar to attena-gate this week if possible, perhaps instead of marcom, with tim, jony, katie, hiroki and whoever else you think needs to be there.
elena is having her teams working this weekend on laying out all of the different pieces of the issues that challenge apple's brand like-ability ready for a meeting this week. we can talk further beforehand and help you orchestrate a broader discussion on the issues and solutions. it's clear we'll need a concerted plan for change at many levels within apple, and knowing what each other are doing for this year will help us maximize our efforts.
2. a new way to experiment big ideas
we understand that this moment is pretty close to 1997 in terms of the need for advertising to help pull apple through this moment. we get that and are excited by that huge opportunity.
it seems these times call for more open and expansive ways to experiment with ideas. honestly, sometimes the logic of marcom prevents us trying ideas that we think we should. we actually have 2 pretty huge brand-level ideas right now that we love and yet can't find a way to talk about in marcom, without just simply going out and making them. it's more of a nike model where they shoot a bunch of stuff and then pick which to run from finished work. i think this moment calls for some freedom to do that.
at the same time, we agree it's vital that marcom gets stronger at formalizing product positionings and strategies, shown together on roll-out charts so the complete picture of all our tactics can be understood and built upon at multiple levels.
3. a regular mini-marcom meeting
we think that we need a regular meeting between hiroki's and our teams to match up campaigns and co-ordinate efforts on carriers specifically and then on building campaigns that work right through all apple media. so if we decide to follow a campaign idea in advertising around say 'people love their iPhones', then all apple media from apple.com to retail pick up different pieces of that and build on the arguments of each other, as hiroki reminded us we did with mac vs PC and 'get a mac'.
please let us know what you think
james & team
On Jan 26, 2013, at 7:30 PM, Philip Schiller wrote:
Actually I am quite shocked at this response.
In last Marcom we watched the iPhone 5 launch video and listened to a product marketing presentation about the state of the business and competition. We discussed how the iPhone as a product and it's resulting market success is much better than people seem to be thinking about it. Pure marketing issues.
To come back and suggest that Apple needs to think dramatically different about how we are running our company is a shocking response. Also, to suggest we need to give you more free reign to spend money to explore ideas that you have not even tried to bring up in Marcom is shocking. We meet every week to discuss whatever we need to, no limit has been placed on what we discuss or how we explore issues, including our coming down to your facility for entire day long meetings.
This is not 1997. Nothing like it in any way. In 1997 Apple had no products to market. We had a company making so little money that we were 6 months from out of business. We were the dying, beleaguered Apple in needing of hitting a restart button that would take years to get turned around. Not the world's most successful tech company making the world's best products having created the smartphone and tablet form factors and leading in content distribution and software marketplaces. Not the company that everyone wants to copy and compete with.
Yes, I am shocked. This doesn't sound like a path toward making great ads for iPhone and iPad that everyone inside and outside Apple are proud of. That is what we were asked to do.
[This document is from Apple v. Samsung (2014).]
Behind the scenes
When he was leading Apple, Steve Jobs held a weekly meeting with the company’s ad agency, TBWA\Media Arts Lab. Every Wednesday from 1–3pm, Jobs reviewed ideas for Apple’s advertising and messaging, an iterative process that yielded campaigns like “Get a Mac” and the iPod silhouettes. This meeting was known as Marcom, for “marketing and communications.”
His counterpart at these meetings was James Vincent, who ran Media Arts Lab. (You can spot Vincent’s cameo in the first iPhone keynote.) “My job was to pull the genius out of him,” Vincent said in a recent interview. “He had the genius — of course — in plentiful supply, but I had to focus it on the project by showing him lots of ideas.” Each week, the agency would edit its work down to a handful of concepts that it deemed good enough to present to Jobs.
From an oral history of the “Get a Mac” campaign:
Jason Sperling, creative director: There was a pulse to the way we handled marketing with Steve Jobs. [At Marcom,] we would show him the thinking and then he would react to it and we would get another week to hone in on what he was saying.
Mike Refuerzo, executive producer: We used to work all night until 7:00, 8:00 in the morning creating the content that would go to the meeting.
Jason Sperling: We put together tests for just about everything. But Steve demanded perfection. For example, just looking at a reflection on a screen at the 17-second mark, he'd tell the team, "Stop, why didn't you do better with your lighting?" He was quite punishing if you didn't do it right.
Eric Grunbaum, executive creative director: When we presented the [“Get a Mac” campaign] edits at Marcom, Steve killed a majority of them. Only four survived. We found this emotionally disheartening at first, but soon learned that Steve didn't care about the "failures" or focus on them. He focused on the ones that were great. We learned that trying a bunch of ideas, falling short on many, and succeeding on a few, would be the way we would get to the three or four winners with each round of this campaign.
Jobs’s relationship with TBWA and its creative chief, Lee Clow, dated back to the 1970s and included the creation of the “1984” and “Think Different” campaigns. And in 2006, TBWA created Media Arts Lab as a new agency dedicated to Apple.
Anticipating the iPhone, Jobs had issued a challenge to Apple’s top 100 leaders: “Think about how your jobs need to change, because whatever you're doing now, you need to 10x within a year.” For Vincent, this meant building a global agency within TBWA that could work around the clock for Apple, and support the iPhone’s international launches. Media Arts Lab would eventually grow to more than 600 employees across 14 offices, focused on its one client.
Phil Schiller, Apple’s longtime head of product marketing, took over Marcom after Jobs’s death. Tripp Mickle writes in After Steve:
[Schiller's] elevation was difficult for Vincent to accept. Jobs had spoken to the shaggy-haired Brit, described by colleagues as a “creative’s creative,” about leading the group prior to the CEO’s death. Instead, Vincent had wound up reporting to his rival, who had become the arbiter of the company’s brand.
Jobs’s death was a “gut punch” to Vincent. “Two weeks before he died, I was sitting with him in his living room … and he held my hand and he said, you know, ‘take care of the brand, James.’ … [But] I knew that it was not going to be pretty for me without Steve being there.”
The email exchange between Schiller and Vincent took place less than 16 months later. Marcom was adjusting to Jobs’s absence and finding a new center of gravity — as Samsung was poking fun at the iPhone in feisty ads. From After Steve:
In late January 2013, Schiller reacted with alarm when he saw an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal’s business section. The headline—“Has Apple Lost Its Cool to Samsung?”—irked him, but an anecdote in the story was more troubling. It described a thirty-four-year-old Apple customer who had ditched his iPhone in favor of a Galaxy S III, inspired partly by Samsung’s ad blitz. “If you see this stuff on TV enough, it gets you thinking,” said Will Hernandez, adding that he liked his new phone’s larger screen. Schiller forwarded the article by email to Vincent, writing, “We have a lot of work to do to turn this around.”
Apple considered finding a new agency. Schiller emailed Tim Cook: “I’ve tried hard to keep this from being the situation but we are not getting what we need from them and haven’t been for a while.” Cook responded: “If we need to do this, we should get going.”
After the next Marcom meeting, Schiller emailed Vincent again:
Progress yesterday was good on the iPad advertising. Not good on iPhone.
I’ve seen the team come in time after time with super deep analysis, thought provoking briefs, and amazing creative work that has us feeling great that we are on the right path. I can’t say that is the case now with iPhone.
I watched the Samsung pre-superbowl ad that launched today. It's pretty good and I can't help but think “these guys are feeling it” (like an athlete who can't miss because they are in a zone) while we struggle to nail a compelling brief on iPhone. That's sad because we have much better products. […]
Something drastic has to change. Fast.
In 2017 Vincent launched a new firm, FNDR, which provides brand advice to the founders of high-growth startups, drawing upon his 11 years of experience working with Jobs. Clients have included Snap’s Evan Spiegel and Airbnb’s Brian Chesky.
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