Hi, I'm a Mac… Beep, beep!

by Charles Miller on September 6, 2008

It's pretty common, when reading discussion of Apple's “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads, to come across the comment:

Sure, they're great ads but they don't work. John Hodgeman’s PC is far more likeable than Justin Long’s smug hipster Mac.

This is missing the point. To illustrate, here are director Chuck Jones’ rules for writing Road Runner cartoons, copied from Wikipedia:

  1. Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “beep, beep”.
  2. No outside force can harm the Coyote—only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products.
  3. The Coyote could stop anytime—if he was not a fanatic. (Repeat: “A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” —George Santayana).
  4. No dialogue ever, except “beep, beep”.
  5. Road Runner must stay on the road—for no other reason than that he's a roadrunner.
  6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters—the southwest American desert.
  7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
  8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy.
  9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
  10. The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote.

Substitute Microsoft for Acme, software failures for gravity, a plain white background for the desert… well, you get my drift.

If Apple had gone the traditional route of portraying Microsoft as a gigantic monopolistic borg, great at crushing competition through market pressure but capable of developing only mediocre products, the ads would have been boring. More accurate, perhaps, but boring. They'd have been the 30 Seconds Hate, and that’s just so last century. Instead Apple portray the PC as mostly well-meaning, likeable, goofy… but completely ineffectual.

Previously: Browser Wars: Episode n+1

Next: LinkedIn