June 16, 2002

Apple's Planned Spontaneous Viral Marketing

As someone who has been using Apple computers since the mid-1980s--and who has never dared face up to the hassle costs of switching to the dominant platform--the continued health of Apple computer is somewhat important to me. If I do switch, I want it to be when I think it is a good thing to do, not when the Macintosh platform crashes. But how can Apple survive with 5% market share? Isn't the overwhelming proportion of software talent going to be devoted to writing programs for Windows machines? Doesn't that mean that the next five big things will all require that I run Windows?

All I can say is, apparently not. Apple is good enough at programming--and especially at marketing--to survive. Now is, for the first time in a decade, a moment at which I feel optimistic about its long-run survival.


Sunday, June 16, 2002: You might have read about the Apple "Switch" campaign which is running in the US, the one that's created quite a viral stir on the web. Today, an interesting account of how the campaign was put together is posted on Mac OS X: The Search for OS Canaan. The author is Damon Wright, a Network Administrator who appeared in one of Apple's ads having traded in his Windows PC for a Mac, and who is now very happy having made the switch. Beyond the message (a lot of pro users appear to be seriously considering Mac OSX), it's interesting for showing the amount of effort required to create a big corporation puts in to creating an apparently spontaneous viral campaign. They knew exactly what they were doing.

Posted by Neil McIntosh at 1:22 PM


I've been asked more than once to lay down in words how in the hey-who I ended up on national TV. As it turns out, the story isn't particularly glamorous, but for the sake of history, here it is.

I bought a Mac in February. I'd been thinking about it for some time -- since I was 15 -- but never really got out of the IBM PS2/Windows thing. My life was in it in a big way, to the point that I had worked up as the IT director of Cadence Management Corporation, charged with all the technology buying and client interface infrastructure. For an IT Project Management consulting firm, it's a heavy load. We were one of the first small companies in Portland to buck the trends and adopt Microsoft's Windows NT/2000 Terminal Server network architecture which did, to it's credit, slow our IT hardware spending. Of course, Microsoft's licensing fees were through the roof. I think, in the end, it ended up a wash.

So, there I was. Network Administrator. Hardware/Desktop support. Technical Lead on a Windows-based software development project. I was learning more and more everyday on the ins and outs of Microsoft, the PC, and Windows as an operating system; the more I learned, the more I longed to chage and customize it to better fit my workflow. It was never good enough.

I found myself hanging out at the Apple website more than I'd care to admit. I would wile away the hours admiring the TiBook and the iBook and of course the Cinema Displays. It wasn't until I met Deryk Hiley at The Computer Store in Tigard that I was finally able to allay all my Mac transition fears.

I was terrified about memory allocation. My mac memories were of application crashes and lock-ups. I learned that OS X did away with those. I was terrified of cross platform compatibility. I learned that with Microsoft Office, I didn't need to worry. As a side, since I installed Office on my iBook, I've found I use it less and less every day. I've been working the Text Editor into my workflow and sticking with PDF and RTF as my primary file exchange formats and I haven't heard once single complaint. Finally, I was terrified of network compatibility. If I couldn't go into my client offices and plug into their networks, the whole thing would be off. True to form, OS X let me network like mad out of the box.

Those were the big three. With those needs met, I knew that everything else would come together just fine. So, short story long, Apple put out their call to action.

It was on their site about six weeks after I'd bought the iBook. I was still in new-relationship heaven and very willing to spend a few minutes crafting a tale of love at first type for Steve. They wanted to know how I felt about the switch and if I would mind talking to them about it. Are you kidding?

It was three weeks after I'd written the original piece that I got an email back from one of Apple's reps at TBWA/Chiat Day asking for more. She said that of the initial 7,500 that wrote in to the call, they'd narrowed it down to their favorite 200 to take to the next step. At this point, they were very hush-hush and non-committal. Whatever. I wrote more.

Then, I remember a flurry of phone calls. For the first one, I was fixing my toilet while talking to Justin in New York. Justin didn't work for Apple, but he worked for Errol Morris and had some questions. We talked for about 45 mintues. I think Justin was in a cab in Time Square for that call.

Apple called again. Non-disclosure signed, my lips sealed. On a day's notice, they shipped me to Boston to hang out with what turned out to be the second to the last round of 25 of us "Joe Regulars" who were to be shot on film by Mr. Morris himself. Apparently, the next round would be celebraties. We hung out with one, but I still can't say who. I have a picture of myself with him. His arm's around me. What a coup.

Morris filmed each of us for somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. In between film role change, they took about a hundred stills of us. Keep in mind, as this is happening, and the hot lights are beating down on us, we have no idea what this is for.

Throughout the long day in Boston, we'd been hanging around with the worldwide marketing manager and her assistant WW marketing manager for Apple. They simply treated us like kings. At the end of the long day of waiting and shooting, they took the last few of us to a 5 star restaurant on the wharf. They were fascinating. Twenty-two and twenty-three years of age respectively and they were on their game. If I didn't know better, I'd have thought they'd had at least twenty years in the industry. They had barely six. I have the utmost respect for their instinct and the drive with which they craft it into reality. Quality people all around.

The biggest question I get is "did I get paid." Of course. How much is a different story. It's all SAG equity and negotiated standard fees so if you know where to find that data, you'll know what we got. I'll say it wasn't bad, though I won't be buying my new dual-gig G4 with 23" Cinema Display on it. I'm told I'll be seeing some royalties for each time the TV ad hit the waves, though I don't know how much that will be.

Overall, the experience was a trip through the wardrobe to Narnia. It was one step at a time, not knowing where the next would have us, praying all along that it was not a prank. And now, through no fault of my own, I'm a corporate spokesperson. And that's a pretty cool thing.

Finally, check out my page at Apple. Damon Wright on the Apple: Switch website. Unbelievable.

posted by Damon Wright | 12:21 AM Posted by DeLong at June 16, 2002 07:12 AM

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