Apple's Unintended Compliment To PCs

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You’ve probably seen the recent Apple commercials with the two guys holding hands. One introduces himself as a PC and the other introduces himself as an Apple Macintosh. They hold hands because they speak each other’s language. Along comes a Japanese woman representing a Japanese digital camera who sidles up to the Mac guy and holds his hand. The Mac speaks her language too. If you haven’t seen it, you can click on the image below to see it on YouTube by clicking on the image below.


At the end of the commercial, she looks over at the PC guy and says something in Japanese to the Mac guy that elicits chuckling between the two. The inside joke is that she thinks the PC guy looks like an Otaku.

Otaku refers to a specific flavor of Japanese geekdom in which the geek is obsessed with anime, manga, action figures, and video games. In Japan it traditionally has very negative connotations and would be considered a pejorative. It probably has similar connotations to the term Nerd back in the 80s before Nerds became rich and drove Bentleys.

However, this month’s issue of Wired (14.07) has a short article by Tony McNicol that describes how this subculture has morphed into a thriving industry and a trendy lifestyle export.

“Otaku have joined the mainstream to become a major cultural icon,” says Tokyo journalist and social observer Kaori Shoji. “They’ve been lurking on the edge of hip for some years. Now they’ve gone completely legit.” In a recent column for the Japan Times, Shoji wrote about women who were desperately trying to land otaku boyfriends and the trouble they were having competing with the ultrageeks’ preferred romantic companions-racy images of anime idols freely available online.

Ok, so this still isn’t necessarily a unqualified compliment, but associating PC with becoming a hip cultural icon is probably the last thing Apple desires. Apple is supposed to be the hip one wearing shades in the room. Perhaps if the commercial intended to reflect modern shifts in Japan culture, we should see the woman trying to sidle up to the PC guy who would spurn her advances as he is too busy playing Oblivion.

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5 responses

  1. Avatar for Jon Galloway
    Jon Galloway June 30th, 2006

    I agree Seth's article in Slate [ ] - this particular ad is takes some credibility from the campaign. Anyone who's slightly computer saavy would know that in general Windows supports more hardware than Mac. That's a blessing and a curse - it's part of the reason that Microsoft takes so much longer to ship new versions of Windows, and often the cause of crashes in Windows.
    Also, that hip slacker guy bugs me. He seems like a guy that would screw up my latte order and claim it was my fault. They should have picked a less likable nerd than John Hodgman.

  2. Avatar for y01nk
    y01nk June 30th, 2006

    Spoken like a true zealot.

    The ads are clever and humorous, and make a great dig at PC's in this market- where the ad is directed.

  3. Avatar for jayson knight
    jayson knight June 30th, 2006

    It's no worse (or better?) than what the Japanese word for foreigners is...gaijin.
    Regardless, I hate those commercials.

  4. Avatar for tod hilton
    tod hilton July 4th, 2006

    Interesting, thanks for the explanation. I think the ads are funny, but it seems like they're also blowing up in Apple's face a bit. Personally, I like these two comics' responses: here ;-)
    Disclosure: Yes, I work for Microsoft, but I don't consider myself a zealot. I want the consumers to win and there must be competition if that's going to happen.

  5. Avatar for Gubatron
    Gubatron July 14th, 2006

    Even though I know PC is the term for common ibm based personal computers... this commercial is technically wrong.
    PC = Personal Computer
    The Apple //c was a personal computer...
    and now more than ever Apple sells PCs (Intel architecture)
    They should've gone right ahead and said it...
    "I am Windows"
    The fault of a machine getting viruses, being slow, and buggy as hell is not the hardware, it's windows, otherwise they wouldn't have gone with intel.