Mac ads join the pantheon



Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Burns and Allen.

Martin and Lewis.

Wayne and Shuster.

Bert and Ernie.

Sylvester and Tweety.

Cheech and Chong.

Wait a minute, forget Cheech and Chong.

But you can now add Hodgman and Long to this list.

Listen, it is a miracle when one person manages to be consistently, outrageously, classically hilarious for a generation or two.

But to pull off a pair, a team of comic genius status, that’s something, man. And to do it as advertising? Forget it. Impossible.

Well, yeah, there was James Garner and Mariette Hartley for Polaroid, back in the seventies, for Chrissakes.

But that just hammers home the point.

As a professional ad critic, kids, I fully buy into the proposition that no ad campaign can be declared classic or even immortal for the mandatory 10 years. (Believe it or not, it took at least that long for the suits and glad-handers to wake up to the fact that Volkswagen, Avis and Beanz Meanz Heinz were classics of their time, but that’s another column.)

And as our time is limited here, I’m going out on a limb to nominate John Hodgman and Justin Long as Eternal Flame Worthy in the Pantheon of Advertising, or as the children say, Branding Architect Immortals, when it is built, probably in Cleveland.

Come on.

When you hear: ‘I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC.’ Everybody in the room shuts up and watches.

This work is so good, it makes the hairs on your arms stand up.

I don’t have to tell you about it, ’cause you know most of it, and if you don’t, just click on YouTube as I did last night, where there are several hundred ‘I’m a…’ spots of either genuine Mac origin (other countries feature different actors) or spoofs and knock-offs.

It’s all there.

The one where the PC freezes up and the Mac rushes from the spot to go look for IT help. The one where the PC is in casts in a wheelchair ’cause someone tripped over his cord and yanked him off the desk. (Macs have detachable magnetic cords.) The one where the PC catches a virus and faints on camera. The one where they both go to a counselor, which is worth watching just for the

body English.

But why is this brilliant advertising, you ask?

Not just because I say so hahahahahahahaha.

It’s because it follows rules of classically successful advertising.

1. It springs from sound strategy: The underdog takes on the overdog (Hertz vs. Avis, Pepsi vs. Coke) to force the consumer to consider the underdog. (And to thus cast every other wannabe competitor forever into outer darkness!)

2. The casting is exquisite. You know these people. You empathize with both of ‘em.

3. The humour arises from the selling points. It is not some unrelated, distracting gag from outta left field stuck on the end to amuse the copywriter’s drinking buddies.

4. The selling points (mostly the PC glitches) are rendered hugely important by the context. All Avis ever hard-promised was clean ashtrays, but in such a context!

5. It is not a one-gag campaign. It can spin out forever, fueled by the three great ingredients of classic advertising: relevance, emotion and surprise. Or until Mac appoints an ad manager who has a nephew at another agency.

Not to be mean, but for your homework assignment, compare and contrast the Bell Canada beavers, Gordon and whatsis, Frank? to see just how wrong you can get something after that heady morning in the boardroom when you pitched the concept to the client and they, like, went ape because it was, like, so Canadian.

Wayne and Shuster made the Sullivan show ’cause they were damn funny, not because they were Canadian, munchkins!

Barry Base is president and CD of Barry Base & Partners, Toronto. See highlights of his career to date at