Arnold’s Solution for Apple: Guerrilla Tactics Urged to Recover Credibility

BOSTON-Arnold Communications looked to “put the bite back into Apple” in its recent pitch for the computer company’s $80-90 million U.S. ad account. The client’s immediate marketing challenge was to prove that the brand is alive and well, according to agency executives.
Arnold suggested a six-month, seemingly low-cost guerrilla marketing campaign that would lead to a big-budget TV and radio effort in 1998.
One magazine execution showed a photo of a smirking Steve Jobs, Apple’s acting chief executive officer, next to the quote, “This is no time to be PC.” Rather than a tagline, the ads would carry a border of text stating Apple’s leadership position in key industry segments such as education and publishing.
Also suggested was a small-space newspaper campaign featuring word plays: “slow learner” next to a photo of a boy reading a book with “slow” crossed out, and “frustrated teacher” with a line through “frustrated.” The idea was to convey that Apple computers remove obstacles, allowing users to focus on ideas.
The most daring gambit was a series of single-page, black-and-white ads featuring famous Macintosh devotees photographed in the buff with their hands covering their genitals. Among the celebrities suggested were gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, media maven Ted Turner and Esteƒ Lauder. Whether they would have consented was another matter, but Arnold executives were fairly confident that the passion users feel for their Apple computer products would lead them to disrobe.
Fran Kelly, Arnold’s chief marketing officer and point person on new business, justified the cost of the pitch by what was learned in the process.
Apple was the Boston shop’s first loss in a competitive review since 1993, when it lost back-to-back pitches for Keds and Raytheon Corp.
“What went wrong in early pitches was that we had failed to stand behind one idea,” Kelly said. Instead of showing prospective clients one solution, it presented a smattering of creative approaches.
“Part of the reason we won Volkswagen and other clients since VW is that we realized that we wouldn’t win until we weren’t afraid to lose,” Kelly said.
From start to finish, the Apple review process lasted 36 days. Instead of demoralizing agency staffers, the exhausting and whirlwind experience of pitching the client helped affirm that the shop’s new-business process keeps them prepared to tackle even the most complex marketing problems quickly and cost efficiently, according to Kelly.
“We thought all along that the best way to win the thing may be to come in a close second. It was great to compete,” said Kelly.