Apple's Advertising: From Magical to Practical

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL) used to be untouchable. The company that once seemed immune to failure -- that hid technology and called it magic -- has proven to be surprisingly vulnerable. Many have abandoned hope, and critics have relentlessly thrown out jeers from the bleacher seats. Whatever the reason behind the fall -- whether it is a lack of innovation or a rise in competitive vigor -- it is giving competitors a window to dig Apple into a deeper hole. They've found a weakness, and it's less an Achilles Heel and more of a Kryptonite.

Take a look at Apple's advertising, and where it was when the company was on top. They'd stick their product on a glowing white backdrop. Suddenly your TV was no longer a television, it was a glass case. A living room instantly became the MoMA, and you found yourself hopelessly captivated by a piece of Apple's ingenuity. The product sold itself. The innovation; the beauty; the simplicity -- these all became trademarks. It almost seemed out of our reach, only accessible to a swift-moving hand that glided across the glass screen. Peter Coyote's voice was as convincing as anybody's, and the awe factor was at an all-time high. But that was then.

I think somewhere along the line Apple got stuck. In fact, to say this may even be considered painfully obvious. A red flag was when they used this ad format to promote noise-cancelling technology for the iPhone 5. Not to say that the commercial wasn't well done, but I had been an iPhone 5 user for a month by the time I saw the ad. This feature hadn't even occurred to me. In fact, after seeing the spot, I made a point of trying to test it out -- still, I did not see its significance. It was like seeing a Mercedes ad that boasted windshield wipers. For the first time, I wasn't sold. Apple was just scraping from the bottom of the barrel.

Then there was the decline; Apple's record high share price of $705.07 was a memory. Alarmists boarded up their windows and lunged for the red phone when the company slipped below $400. By the reaction of the general public, it seemed like the official conclusion to Apple's career -- if not Hiroshima.

The good news is, Apple got the hint. Or at least it seems that way. The alluring TV spots that were once so convincing became stale -- so they switched it up. The company's new ads aren't about an untouchable product; they're about a common experience. Apple lifted its products off of the towering pedestal, away from that illuminating beam of light shining down on it, and placed it in the hands of its consumers. It's now less divine and more practical. The ads that were once self-indulgent became relatable. The product is shown as something that can actually fit in our hands. And that's what matters.

The shift in style was dramatic. The technology that was so critically hidden and draped in a smooth silver cover became essential. Take, for example, the app campaign. The spots show people -- ranging from a Kenyan community health nurse to a Paralympic bronze medalist -- using Apple products. They no longer function through magic. They are very real, and they pose real solutions to real problems. These products can come out from their protective cases and get in the action. Apple abandoned its aura of cleanliness and perfection and proved that it can hang in rugged, exposed environments. New ads like this de-commodify Apple products. They aren't something to look at. They're pushing us forward.

So maybe things aren't looking great for Apple lately. Along with an apparent mass doubt, they have lawsuits and competitors to worry about. Maybe the alarmists have a point. But the importance of these ads is the versatility they display. While companies like Microsoft ( AAPL), with its Windows products, look at this as an opportunity to shamelessly mock Tim Cook's powerhouse, Apple is weaving through ways of transforming the company's image.

As for innovation, the Mac Pro looks like the Lamborghini of computers, and iOS 7 may revolutionize the way we look at phone screens. As an Apple enthusiast, it would be cool to see Apple rebound and get the last laugh. Maybe it's overly hopeful, but all we can do is be patient.

-- Written by David Webster in New York

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