When Is It Okay to Insult iPod Users?

by Chris Howard May 24, 2006

The Apple fraternity is up in arms at SanDisk. You see, to promote its latest player, SanDisk has set up an “iDon’t” website, with not-so-subtle comparisons of iPod users to sheep, chimps, cows, droids, puppets and more. Ironically, those revolting bloggers (excuse the ambiguity) are happily promoting the iDon’t campaign, providing links to the site.

It’s funny that SanDisk never made such a fuss about Apple’s own ads.

Apple much prefers subtlety, but nonetheless, it happily bags its competitors and their customers. Let’s just look at a few examples:

1984: That ad could easily be construed as saying PC users were a pack of mindless drones who’d been brainwashed by IBM.

Lemmings: Showed PC users as lemmings. Say no more.

Crowd Control: You know the one, from 10 or so years ago, where the presentation using a Windows 95 PC goes belly up because the user can’t get it working because the OS is a pain to use. Underlying message: Using Windows will make you look like an idiot.

Mac Intel: What did Apple say of PC users’ usage of computers? “Dull little tasks,” Ouch! Even Intel cringed at that one.

Get a Mac: Although the two guys are meant to represent the computers, they have been taken personally by many people who see them as not-so-subtle stereotyping of the users themselves. So not only do the ads convey that PCs are old, boring and stupid, but so are their users.

All Apple’s advertising has always had one simple message: There’s a better way.

If there’s a better way, then that’s also saying, “You’ve made the wrong choice.”

Now SanDisk is more in-ya-face than Apple, and spells that out quite clearly. Subtle or not subtle, both approaches are intended to make potential buyers feel they’ve made a mistake, screwed up.

So what happens when Apple runs an advertising campaign? There’s much mirth around the Applesphere, and chuckling at Apple’s creative subtlety, but the message is not lost—Windows users are dimwits who need to see the light.

What happens when SanDisk (or anyone else) runs an advertising campaign questioning Apples users’ choice? Woe-be-tide. The wrath of the Apple fanatics pours down upon SanDisk, the Apple blogosphere goes berserk with righteous zealots screaming for blood. I’m not going to name blogs, not wanting to start a blog-war, but there’s certainly a lot of self-righteous pontificating going on.

There’s an old saying that goes: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Seems some of our Apple brethren aren’t comfortable with that one.

It’s easy to put the boot into Windows and look down your nose at Windows users and talk to them with airs and graces of superiority, but it seems it hurts when the boot is on the other foot.

Ironically, the SanDisk campaign says a lot of things even iPod owners having been calling for, such as licensing FairPlay to other music stores.

Of course, I’ll get flamed for writing this piece and loyalists will say that Apple ads are different because they are subtle. As we say Down Under, “Subtle as a brick in the face.”

Is the SanDisk campaign insulting? If it is to anyone, then the answer is yes. Have Apple’s campaigns been insulting? If they have to anyone, then the answer is yes. Insults, whether they be racist, sexist, religious or choice-ist, are in the eye of the receiver. I find the SanDisk ads insulting, but who am I to complain? I didn’t make a song and dance about any of Apple’s ads being insulting. I just said Windows users were overreacting.

The truth is Apple’s own ads over the years have been just as offensive to some, as the SanDisk one is now to iPod users. And for that reason, it’s time some of us in the Applesphere ate a little humble pie.


  • No flames here.  I agree completely.  Of course, inherent in bigotry is the ability to dish it out but no stomach for taking it in kind.

    I think both the Apple ads and the Sandisk ads are stupid, but not much different from any other commercial designed to make you feel inferior if you don’t own the product they’re selling.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • I signed up to Appple Matters just to agree with your column! I love Apple as much as anyone, and I’m always spouting the virtues of Macs, but, I don’t think its fair to moan when people have a go at Apple considering they knock everyone else when it suits them! (remember the outburst about integrated graphics?

    Good on you for keeping it real!

    ciaocibai had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 4
  • Apple goes after the generic PC world. They don’t specifically flog others on their website. SanDisk references iPod directly. Apple should sue their friggin’ asses off.

    Bad on you for not keeping it real. The two comments above really illustrate iSheep.

    milklover had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 22
  • I think there is a marked difference between the apple ads and the san disc ads. What infuriates me about the san disc ads is that it is an entire campaign that makes revolution sound like the choice between ipod and their player. You’re no less a sheep for using something other than ipod, and no more either. You are not revolutionary or unique for ‘choosing’ an alternative mp3 player, but many people will think they are. Nevertheless, I think if people are really offended by advertisments (especially the new apple ads) they ought not to take them so personally. I mean, above all it was a joke and if you can’t laugh about yourself, who can you laugh about? Over all, though I thought the new apple ads showed a respectful exchange between the two people. Alas, people will see whatever they want to see to prove their (often ridiculous) points.

    the parallax view had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 25
  • We’re sheep because we don’t follow everything Apple does? I don’t exactly follow your logic there…
    People are entitled to whatever opinions they like, and I don’t care what Sandisk or Apple do, I just don’t think people should have double standards which in essence is what it feels like to me.

    ciaocibai had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 4
  • The two comments above really illustrate iSheep.

    First of all, the “generic PC world” is the Windows world, and everyone, including you, knows it.

    Like Apple, Sandisk is simply going after the most common/popular device out there.  In the “generic mp3 world” it’s the iPod.  In the PC world, it’s Windows.

    As such, there is no difference between the two ads.  Only a pathetic and disinengenous Apple apologist brainless robot would pretend otherwise.  That, or you’re just too drunk on the kool-aid to see reality.  Either way.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Nice. Obviously you are too pathetic to make a decent point. Baaaaaaaaa!

    It’s one thing to make generalizations. It’s another to directly attack another brand maliciously because your products suck, your marketshare is small, you can’t figure out that the solution to the problem is a combination of hardware/software, not just one.

    You make my point. You reference iPod directly. And you reference PC (which you refer to as MS Windows). Apple references PC - this could be linux, windows, sun, whatever. SanDisk references iPod directly.

    Nice try lemming.

    milklover had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 22
  • Well, I’m an iPod user and a PC user. Surprisingly, Sandisk’s site, unlike Apple’s ads, doesn’t insult me at all. I guess it’s because they’re not _laughing_ at iPod users. They just ask:“Are you in a herd?”
    The site is ironic. They describe themselves as “a few guys beyond the new Sansa player”, or something like that. It’s pretty clear that “a few guys” wouldn’t make a flashy Flash site to express their opinions, so this “revolution” is fake. But that’s cool! The artwork is really cool and creative (again, unlike Apple’s ads) with all the tiny cool details. The iPuppet, for example, is in a suit, so it reminded me of Johnny Mnemonic and the Matrix (all those white wires…). And his eyes (unlike animals’ eyes) are closed! I don’t know if it’s a coincidence… ;-]
    Of course both ads are “subtle as a brick in the face”! But Sandisk’s site (again, unlike Apple’s ads) doesn’t try to_look_subtle. So it’s more “honest”. They say what they mean: it’s a war! And that’s really cool. Even fake honesty in ads is priceless.
    This Sandisk’s move is great. EVERY pro-Apple site I visit posted this story. There are HUNDREDS of comments. Many people say: “I bought an iPod not because it’s cool, I bought it because it’s…” Sure. But many people with brains may actually start thinking about the reasons they bought an iPod (partly because the artwork is visually catchy), and when people think about something it’s good. Some people (like me) are getting tired of iSomething names so “iDont” hits the right button. Anyway, when most people have something, it isn’t cool anymore. ;-]
    Of course Sandisk made this move because they’re desperate (they have only one half-decent player, and even companies like Sony and Samsung aren’t popular in the DAP market). “Anything but iPod” is a market so they may be successful in this market as they’re actually the first company that claimed this “territory”. Actually I already thought about buying Sansa e200 sometime in the future (when they get rid of all the bugs ;-]). So this “gorilla marketing” made me think about it again. However, I may still buy an iPod if Apple comes with something new instead of those black/white scratch-prone players and silhouette ads.

    iDon’t want to be a silhouette! (I really like this quote from iDont.com)

    “Insults, whether they be racist, sexist, religious or choice-ist, are in the eye of the receiver. “
    It’s funny you say it. The Mac/PC Apple’s ad can actually be considered racist. If a white man is a Mac, another white man is a PC, then what a black man is? A fridge? ;-] Oh, and this ad also objectifies women! (That “digital camera from Japan”, and the whole “connectivity” thing ;-])

    Frosty Grin had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 33
  • SanDisk ad is retarded. May get a lot of attention but until someone puts out a product better than the iPod, it’s all fake crud.

    Basically their ad says “If you want to buy cheap crap with a terrible interface buy ours. We don’t offer the combined software/hardware solution that everyone wants, but hey, just buy our crap will you!”

    Ironically, while they say “don’t be an i sheep” they basically have cloned the Nano but changed the nice, easy-to-use click wheel with a gaudy, terrible square one. Otherwise, they have gone for the same size/shape. Basically, the propagandists have created an:

    iCloned Sheep

    Baaaaaaaaa baaaaaa baaaaaaaa!

    They should have just called the model “Dolly”

    milklover had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 22
  • Obviously you are too pathetic to make a decent point. Baaaaaaaaa!

    Your bleet aimed at me is, not surprisingly, misplaced and stupid.  I own an iPod, two Macs, and two PCs.  I’m not, unlike you, defending one set of stupid ads while attacking the other, and a whole set of users, as sheep.

    If anything, your response and that of tpv (Chris said exactly what you were going to say before you said it) proves him absolutely right:  Mac apologists are predictable, unoriginal, blind, and hypocritical.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Once again, Beeblebrox demonstrates his telepathy. (Here’s a hint for you: proclaiming the ability to read the minds of your attackers demonstrates weak logic. Are you related to John Edwards (either one) by any chance?) OSX appeals as much to the hardcore Linux geek as it does the computer novice. There’s a reason to not mention Windows directly, in other words. Sandisk has no such long-term strategy and no real point. Open up Fairplay? What happens when Apple does? Do you think that Sandisk will get to be a first-round licenser? *ROTFL!*

    Aurora77 had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 35
  • And anti-Mac apologists are rude, loggorhea-suffering, hateful lumps of slack who have nothing better to do than attack others to make themselves look like big men. Hope you get that footnote in history that you’re aiming for there, Beeblebrox.

    Aurora77 had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 35
  • I’m not defending ads. I am simply pointing out that Apple does not use other brands to attack. SanDisk actually puts links to anti-iPod sights.

    Sometimes the simplist logic eludes people.

    Funny, all your retorts prove me right! Thanks for making my point! smile

    milklover had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 22
  • Heh.  What’s actually pretty funny is to watch all the bashing going on in this community.  Being so immature as to put yourselves above others by name calling and mud slinging… from both sides.  It’s pretty funny… and kind of embarassing.

    neura had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 1
  • We don’t name call, Ms. Neura Poopy-Pants!

    And I guess you are just as judgemental with your last statement.

    Let me re-iterate: Once and for all, we do not name call. I wish all you iGoofs would realize that.

    milklover had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 22
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