Apple Readies Tuneful Campaign

SAN FRANCISCO Apple Computer on Monday unveiled five commercials that will soon begin airing to promote the company’s new digital music products.

The spots have a similar look to the company’s $50 million “Switchers” campaign from 2002, which showed real people against a plain white backdrop. In this case, the real people are wearing the latest iPods with earphones, and singing along to pop tunes like the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There,” the Who’s “My Generation,” and Pink’s “Get the Party Started.”

Shown at a launch event to announce Apple’s foray into the online music business, the crowd favorite featured a preppy-looking young man, singing and dancing to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s suggestive “Baby Got Back.”

“One of these may not run,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs, chuckling at the commercials after the unveiling. The ads were created by Apple’s advertising agency, TBWAChiatDay in Playa del Rey, Calif.

Jobs also showed a billboard, featuring a stark white background with a guitar. The ad uses the line, “Rock and roll will never die. It is, however, being reborn.” Jobs said the billboard ads are being installed now, but did not make it clear when the TV spots would run.

Spending was not disclosed. Agency and Apple representatives could not be reached for further comment. Apple spent nearly $125 million on ads last year, according to CMR.

The advertising announcement came at the end of an hour-long presentation to showcase Apple’s latest version of its iPod music players and its new iTunes music download service. Jobs noted that deals were negotiated with the five major U.S. record labels so Apple customers can legally download 200,000 songs, for 99 cents apiece. Instead of requiring a subscription like competitors Rhapsody or PressPlay, Apple customers will be able to use the downloaded songs on up to three Macintosh computers, or play them on an unlimited number of iPods.

The new service is intended to fill the gap between the illegal and now-shuttered Napster music sharing service, and the fee-based subscription services. Carefully explaining the benefits of the new Apple pay service, Jobs said the free download alternative was simply stealing. “It’s best not to mess with karma,” he warned.

Jobs also took pains to step back from a 2001 ad, “Rip, Mix, Burn,” used to launch its music software program. The slogan was criticized at the time for promoting music piracy.

“There was some confusion about this,” Jobs said. “Some thought it meant to rip off,” the recording industry. But he clarified that the term “rip,” actually meant to rip songs off consumers’ own CDs, and mix them to burn personal music compilations.