By now, you've seen the new Apple ads trying to regain some of the firm's mojo. They are adding voice overs, something never done in the Jobs era, where some kind of upbeat music would be the sole accompaniment of the ad, talking about how they work on a few products, etc.
The 60-second commercials began airing June 10 and thus far have earned the lowest score of 26 Apple TV ads in the past year, according to Ace Metrix. The ad scored 489 on the company's scoring system, below an industry average of 542 and far below past Apple campaigns that often went over the 700 mark.
Mainstream press outlets have jumped at the rating, such as Bloomberg, which relied heavily on Ace Metrix numbers and called in additional experts to try to determine why they were so low.
But there's a huge problem with the research. Samsung has been a major client of Ace Metrix and has so since last year. Samsung is a subscriber to the Ace Metrix LIVE platform to get real-time measures of ads, as well as Ace Metrix PRE to test ads prior to release.
Then there’s the fact that Ace Metrix has given eight Samsung ads an average rating higher than 600 since May, according to Bloomberg.
I hope I'm not the only one who has a problem with this.
Even more troubling to me is how I learned it. No one in the tech press has pointed out the Ace/Samsung connection, but if you do some Google searching you will find a lot of stories very complimentary to Samsung, citing Ace research. They praise Apple products, but score Samsung higher almost every time. For example, Ace's September 2012 report titled “Most Effective Tablet Ads of 2012” put Samsung ahead of iPad, five months after Ace added Samsung as a client. The press release that Ace Metrix issued at the time uses some very pro-Samsung language without ever mentioning its relationship with the company.
I learned about this because I was too lazy to shut off the radio on Friday morning and heard Rush Limbaugh ranting about it for a good 20 minutes. Rush may prove Apple's best advertiser. Although I doubt any Apple employees would piss on Limbaugh if he was on fire, he loves their products and has given them untold minutes of free advertising on the biggest radio show in the country. I've heard he even gives away iPads and MacBooks to particularly good callers. That's one dedicated fan.
Here is the transcript from his show. He looked at this the same way someone of his political view looks at political polls, which are often skewed and biased in favor of one party. And he has a point. I've looked at a number of articles citing the Ace figures and nowhere in any of the articles have I seen a full disclosure clarifying that Samsung is an Ace Metrix client.
In defense of Ace, ads like this usually do poorly, unless they get into serious patriotism and flag waving, which the ads do not. They simply say "Designed by Apple in California." To get people to buy your product based on where it was made, you need to build on patriotic fervor, and the ads don't do that. They don't even say "Made in the USA"; they say California. And they are hitting at a time when we aren’t feeling all that patriotic. Is anyone loving the IRS these days?
I do agree that the ad is poor. It's too long, reek of desperation and the music is maudlin. That's not Jobs-ian advertising, where it would be 30 seconds, usually wordless and feature an uptempo song, likely from a young hippie-chick type chanteuse that Jobs always seemed to be smitten with.
There is a peculiar Microsoft connection to all of this. Ace gave a 674 score to the initial ads for the Microsoft Surface tablet. You know, the ones with the coordinated table shuffling and clicking that left a lot of people scratching their heads. But when you take into account that Samsung is a Microsoft partner in the tablet space and a competitor to Apple, it makes a little more sense.
I'm used to this kind of back-scratching in the industry, to a point. Gartner frequently does research at the behest of Microsoft and other giants, but they say upfront when it’s done on behalf of Microsoft. So I can live with that and note it in my article.
But after all this, there is no way I can take any research concerning these two companies if the news outlets citing the stats make no disclosure of their connection to one side.