Designed by Apple in California: Published in newspapers everywhere

Designed by Apple is California: Published in newspapers everywhere

Apple's going decidedly old world for their newest ad campaign, pushing their "Designed by Apple in California" series onto 2-page spreads in major North American newspapers, including Saturday's Montreal Gazette, pictured above. Nostalgia has been something Apple's appealed to in the past - that sense of better, simpler, more personal times and places, where friends and family, important moments and memorable music, craftsmanship and quality were the things that inspired and empowered us, and were among the values that mattered most.

I've already written about what I think it means in terms of regionalism and responsibility. Some have theorized they're targeted internally at Apple's own, and others have said they're not as effective at reaching mainstream consumers. Allusions have even been made to Apple's classic "Think Different" campaign, claiming "Designed by Apple in California" is to Tim Cook's first act what that was to Steve Jobs' second.

Regardless, they seem to me to be more brand ads than product ads, statements of identity and purpose than sales pitches. Their job doesn't seem to be to sell more iPhone or iPads, iPods or Macs, at least not overtly or directly, but to sell more Apple subtly and pervasively.

"Designed by Apple in California" doesn't seem to have clicked everywhere or for everyone yet, and may not even over time. But it gets "design", "Apple", and "California" linked in people's thoughts, and in their commentary, and that's a change from what the discussions and word associations might have been previously.

You can check out some other variants over at 9to5Mac. If Apple's running an ad in your local paper, throw a link below and let me know what you think about the campaign.

This is it. This is what matters. The experience of a product. How it makes someone feel. When you start by imagining what it might be like, you step back. You think.

Who will this help? Will it make life better? Does this deserve to exist? If you are busy making everything, how can you perfect anything?

We don't believe in coincidence or dumb luck. There are a thousand "no's" for every "yes". We spend a lot of time on a few great things. Until every idea we touch, enhances each life it touches.

We're engineers and artists. Craftsmen and inventors. We sign our work. You may rarely look at it, but you'll always feel it. This is our signature, and it means everything.

Designed by Apple in California

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

XCOM: Enemy Unknown for Mac comes to Steam

Next up →

Review 4: Superman and Man of Steel

Reader comments

Designed by Apple in California: Published in newspapers everywhere


This campaign is getting panned in the "tech media" based on a rating by Ace Metrix... who just happens to be Samsung's ad agency... imagine that... Samsung's ad agency putting out info that craps on Apple...

Ace is an analytics company, not an ad agency. Their business is not creating ads, but to collect these numbers for agencies and companies to use in their own marketing plans. They do count Samsung as a client, however, so add whatever sized grain of salt is appropriate.

I think that Apple is going for the "SLO" ads as compared to the "SO FAST" you can't keep up and even visualize what is happening kind of ad. I like the thoughtfulness of the ads from Apple. I feel like I am "with" Apple, not for Apple. With Apple since the late 80's.

What a load of bull biscuits.

A Platitudes 'R Us campaign tries to remind people of that cute little underdog of their computing youth, designed and built in California - while leaving out that inconvenient second half. Apple has become the monolith that it once disdained in Microsoft, pumping out lackluster products based on old designs and quietly tweaking it's support to be less 'insanely great' - and expecting no one will notice or care.
Designed in California? Images of laid back latte-sipping surfer dudes and chicks doing us all a favour a couple hours every day being supremely creative for our benefit belays the truth. And please pay no attention to the man (or legions of Chinese being paid $60 month) behind the curtain, making it all actually work.

They want you to buy into image, not the reality. Apple designed in California (0% built there) is about as relevant as Lululemon designed in Vancouver (3% made in Canada) - with just a little heartwarming xenophobia tossed in for good measure.

This whole thing about Apple hiring a company whose work force are a bunch of under paid Chinese workers is getting stale. Everyone is doing the same thing Apple is doing. Ford and GMC American car makers outsource the work to Mexico for engines and parts do you think they are getting paid top dollar at those assembly lines no cause if they were they wouldn't outsource the work. The only reason why Apple is catching heat over this is because they are in the spot light. So please stop bringing that up cause every major company is doing the same exact thing including Samsung Sony HTC and so on. So to criticize a company over this argument is hypocritical at best cause I can guarantee that somewhere in your household you own a few things that are made by these so called sweatshops.

You'll note I referenced Lululemon in my post, so no, I don't think Apple is the only one outsourcing - however 'stale' the argument might be. But as Gazoobee notes below, the ads imply that somehow, because their products are designed in California, that is all you really need to know. They are the electronic equivalent of eating mom's apple pie while listening to The Beach Boys. And they conveniently don't point out that Apple's lead designer is a Brit.

I frankly don't care if today's Apple products are designed by students in a high school in Bangalore and built in a massive fair employee factory in Tuvalu - but don't produce ads that imply that you're still the tiny little California company that could, being handcrafted with love by a bunch of Apple enthusiasts in Woz's garage. Apple, like all multinationals, are in for your money, however created.

And, as Dark_Blu's posting below suggests, Apple needs to do less 'remember when?' advertising and actually find ways to encourage people away from the competition with new products. Short of the Macoyltes, consumers aren't going to buy into the charm of older products, however refreshed.

I still find these ads to be borderline offensive. Unintentionally so, but still.

They are "retro" all right, they harken back to an age when America was King of the world and the crown it wore was California. At a time when the world is coming together, these ads are divisive. They draw a line around the USA and California as if to say "we're separate from you," "we are better than you."

Why is "made in USA" supposed to be a positive? The implication is that it's because the USA itself is "better" than whatever country you live in, and that California is "better" than anywhere else in the USA. Otherwise it wouldn't matter. There is a strong, unavoidable implication in this entire movement by Apple to manufacture in the USA, that China in particular, is "worse" than the USA, that it's a "bad" place to build things. This pride in America is simply Xenophobia by the back door.

Patriotism is and always has been a *negative* thing except within the country for which you are being patriotic for. Patriotism is the cause of most wars and conflicts around the world. While these adverts come across as a positive to Americans and those who idolise America, it comes across as a big negative for everyone else.

It's retrograde, backwards thinking. It's anti-modernist, anti-globalist, old-fashioned thinking and I think it's a big mistake for Apple to take this "we're better than you," direction with it's advertising and production.

it could be this way if you want to think that way. Everyone has pride in their own country...this is a natural sense of belonging. I don't think the ad is saying US is better than another country but you could push for that if you want to think that way. But why force your own underlying beliefs into an ad that doesn't even say that?

some things made in china some are not. I think they will try and do as much as they can in the US even just to keep more private stuff private. Most if not all of their leaks come from China.

but yeah...most of it is in China.

While the plural of anecdote is not data, among my parents and my parents' friends, California is a four-letter word, because of its culture and because of its politics. Because trends often start here and move to the rest of the country, there is almost an undercurrent of cultural anti-imperialist resentment, as well. It seems to me that all three opinions (against CA politics, against CA culture, against CA spreading) are most pronounced in older demographics, and that the audience for print newspapers skews decidedly older. It would be interesting to see if the tracking numbers for these campaigns bear this out, and if the reception is more positive in online forums and social media than in traditional print.

Why do they think it makes me want to buy some Apple product because "it was designed in California?"

What about: "Not made by a child in China under appalling conditions." Oh, sorry, they can't, becuase that is where the out-of-this-Earth profit margins come from.

What exactly are these appalling conditions you speak of? Why do people stand in line to get a job at Foxconn if the conditions are appalling?

Because they want money. They really don't have much of a choice, it gets enough pay to stay alive.

The conditions in Foxconn, I think, have improved though.

i would bet none of you have ever been to Foxconn and have no idea what really happens there. Good or bad. Bickering over details and information from "news" rarely helpful. And saying a company is evil because they want money is naive.

I'm not from nor live i California, so this ad campaign means absolutely nothing to me. The one about taking pictures or listening to music doesn't either. It so happens that I use my iPhone 4S to take pictures and occasionally listen to music, but my iPhone doesn't define my identity. It's an information tool that is getting the job done for me right now (and has for two years), but that doesn't automatically mean that my next phone will be an iPhone. I'm an artist and musician but I don't have an emotional attachment to the MBP I'm typing this on nor the iPhone 4S sitting next to it. If the next iPhone meets my needs, it will be under consideration as my next phone, but not because it's an Apple product, and definitely not because it was "designed in California. Apple may be able to "rally the fanbois/fan girl troops" with this ad campaign, but in order to pull people away from Android and the other platforms, they need to come up with a way to reach everyone who's consider Samsung, Blackberry, or Windows Phone. This ad campaign does nothing to do that. This of course assumes that Apple is interested in moving beyond it's core audience. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe it's happy to be a niche product for the niche audience. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It makes them loads of cash. The stock price won't rise on sales to the core audience alone and if Apple ever plans to grow marketshare outside of the USA, it's going to need to finally let go of the iPhone 4 design and think of some new iPhone design that isn't too far out (new Mac Pro) yet is familiar enough to it's core audience happy.

The ads are horrible. Every time they come on TV we wince. "This is what matters?" No, it's not. It's a phone. A computer. A tablet. Nothing more. Talk about self-important drivel.