Apple 2.0

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Does a demographic shift explain Apple's Olympics ads?

August 10, 2012: 12:00 PM ET

The "Genius" spots may have targeted older users, but that doesn't make them good

Source: YouGov BrandIndex. Click to enlarge.

FORTUNE -- According to a YouGov  BrandIndex survey released Friday, Apple's "fans" have gotten older -- a demographic shift the firm suggests may have been the company's motivation for releasing the three "Genius" ads that got so roundly panned when they aired in prime time during NBC's Olympics coverage.

YouGov's evidence: The "Buzz" chart above, which shows positive awareness of the Apple (AAPL) brand among Americans 35 and older rising from last spring to last fall, when it peaked 13 points higher than Apple's traditional target demographic -- 18 to 34-year olds.

"Now that adults 35+ have a higher perception of Apple," suggests YouGov's press release, "it may make sense that the 'Genius' ads were airing during the Olympics, where the prime time audience is easily over 35 years old. It appears that the 35+ demographic, which includes Boomers 50 and over, may need more product hand-holding than the younger group – hence the Genius."

Speaking as someone well over 35, older doesn't necessarily mean dumber, which is how the users in most of these ads were portrayed.

And as veteran Apple ad man Ken Segall pointed out in his devastating takedown of the Genius campaign (See Landing with a serious thud), a well-crafted ad can target one group without losing the other:

"Exhibit A: the now-legendary Mac vs. PC campaign, which delivered 66 fantastic ads over a period of four years. Like the new campaign, Mac vs. PC was also aimed at switchers, but guess what — it was a massive hit with every level of Mac owner, from novice to pro."

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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