The hatred of Justin Long…

Justin Long

In case you’ve being living under a rock for the past year, Justin Long is the ‘I’m A Mac’ guy in the recent spate of Apple adverts. He plays opposite John Hodgeman (I’m A PC’).

Now before I get into the gist of this article, I need to point out to those of you who just don’t get these ads, what their angle is. I come from a marketing background, so hear me out.

Apple Computer want to portray to the buying public the benefits of buying an Apple Macintosh Computer, over buying a Windows-based computer.

The problems in doing this are twofold:

1) As soon as joe public sees an advert with a complicated tech-device therein, their brain switches off. It’s just too difficult to portray the positive aspects of the Mac and the negative aspects of the PC in 30 seconds, and to hold your viewers attention.

2) Microsoft have done such a good job of lowering everybody’s expectations in what to expect from a PC, to the point that people just see them as a tool they replace every couple of years, that Apple has an uphill battle in getting people to feel passionate about computers, in the way that we all as Mac users already do. In order to switch a user, you have to make them care about their computing experience again, and make them realise that there is an alternative to the cycle of buying a computer, use it until it’s full of viruses, and then replace it with a new one or give it to your geeky friend to sort out.

So, what do you do to make computers more appealing? How do you subtly put across the benefits of a Mac, and the shortcomings of a PC, without going down the route of option 1 (simply showing a Mac with bullet points next to it?)?

You anthropomorphise them.

You turn the Mac and PC into a person. And every aspect of that person is personified in the computer. So the way the computer behaves becomes their personality, the way the computer looks becomes the person’s clothing, you get the idea.

Now with all of this in mind, it’s been interesting to see people’s reaction to the adverts.

First of all, a large percentage of PC viewers did not grasp the anthropomorphic stance of the ads, and were offended by them. The 2 people in the adverts denote the computers, not the users. Now you cannot blame the viewer for this, Apple obviously did not get their message across well enough, and they must try harder.

Secondly, the side effect of the PC being the butt of many jokes, made some viewers feel sorry for him, and because they did not get the fact that this person was NOT a manifestation of a USER, but the manifestation of a COMPUTER, they identified with him – they felt his pain.

And who inflicted this pain? Well, the only other protagonist in the advert – the Mac, or in their eyes, the Mac user.

This then explains some of the totally unwarranted verbal attacks on Justin Long. On a recent episode of TWIT, they discussed the apparent sacking of Justin Long by Apple, because he was coming under fire, and was seen as arrogant, smug and cruel.

Now this sacking has since been discarded as an incorrect rumour, but their discussion continued. One thing they all agreed was that Apple found it okay that Justin Long was coming over in this way, because that’s what all Mac users are like – smug, arrogant & cruel.

I was listening to this in the car at the time, and I physically staggered. How can anyone feel this way, and generalise over a group of people who they have never met?

Does Justin Long come over like this? I wanted to find out so I took a quick look at a selection of Apple ads on their website.

Well, after looking at them, and re-reading the scripts, I could find little or no reference to anything that Justin Long says that could be construed as being smug, arrogant or cruel. In fact, most of the time he comes across as quite understanding, kind and very neutral – to the point of being a little boring.

So why do PC users feel this way?

Well, I think it comes down to pride. Whether you get the anthropomorphic angle of these ads or not, what they are saying is, is that you, as a PC user have made the wrong choice in choosing Windows.

PC users are a delicate bunch, and I think Apple has not realised this, (or maybe they have and are just going for the jugular). As I have said in a previous post, whole careers, whole lives and whole personalities are built around the Windows monopoly.

Criticising their choice in Windows opens their flesh and bares the rawest of raw nerves, and strikes at the core of everything they believe in.

Justin Long has said little or nothing inflammatory, nothing rude, or condescending, go on – check for yourself. Nothing that would illicit the hassle he is getting.

I think what we are seeing, in the reaction by Windows users to these adverts, is a kind of reverse emotional response.

They see the truth, unvarnished, of what using a Windows PC is like, and they cannot accept it. They feel hurt and betrayed be Microsoft, but again, they cannot accept it – to walk away from Microsoft is too much of an upheaval for them.

So what do they do? they look for a scapegoat, someone to blame, someone who is responsible for all that pain, and, identifying with John Hodgeman, they blame Justin Long, and spout vitriol at him whenever they can.

Windows PC users are really screwed up, and they really do need to Think Different.



  1. Mac User

    Two quotes from the same article you wrote-

    “How can anyone feel this way, and generalise over a group of people who they have never met?”

    “Windows PC users are really screwed up, and they really do need to Think Different.”

  2. gagravaar

    I suspect nobody commenting on the issues that the ‘Mac versus PC’ ads brings up, have ever actually met, or worked closely with a Mac user, we certainly don’t behave in the way PC-users and commentators say we do.

    Of coursed I am biased, but I am primarily a Mac user, and this is a Mac blog, but I have worked using Mac’s and PC’s alongside each other for nearly twenty years, and still to this day I get Windows IT Managers acting very strangely around the Mac studio I run.

    Maybe looking at this post, which describes some of the episodes I’ve been through will shed some further light on this subject.

  3. James Clarke

    Interesting article. I’m a pure PC fan, never really liked Macs. I never saw the adverts in the light that you put on them. I didn’t think they were bad adverts at all, in fact I thought they were rather successful – obviously not. However, I’m probably just too PC arrogant to be effected by them! :p

  4. Ramon A d Sandoval

    I am a pc and a mac user. There is a lot to like in both, and a lot to dislike in both. For one arrogant fanboys on either side preaching venomously to the choir about the virtues of their platform. I use whichever works for whatever I want. If a Mac had all I wanted I’d use Mac only. Same for PC. As a techie for the school I used to trouble shoot macs, pc’s and network servers. I had more trouble calls to Macs but that is because there were more Macs. If I had to guess I’d say that evening out the numbers, trouble calls were about equal. On the other hand, for the one OS/2 box we had in my four years as a tech, I had ZERO trouble calls for OS/2. But OS/2 is dead except for fanboys and ECS (rebranded OS/2).

    I want an OS without bells and whistles, very small footprint in memory and fast as a bullet out of the box. Neither Mac nor PC is that computer.

    It is time for a new paradigm. A new OS that will run mac software, pc software, unix/linux software and not care which platform it was written to run on.

    Like a car. Doesn’t matter which gas station you go to in the USA, the car runs just fine. I want to buy software for what it does, how fast the pc/mac is that runs it and that is all.

    Wasn’t that what Java was about?


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