Macworlds around the globe are filing their 'Reviews of the Year' concerning Apple's marketing efforts for 1999. Here's the report from Macworld UK.
Apple UK's swan song year of local marketing was much like its US equivalent, but a lot less lavish and a lot more chaotic - thanks, in large part, to the iron fist of Cupertino. Every success was marked by its equal in customer-baiting stupidity.
Apple managed to get its translucent desktops onto just about every UK TV show going. BBC1's Film 99 featured a blue-&-white Power Mac G3 and flat-screen display. ITV's Saturday-morning kids' TV show, CDUK, featured as many iMacs as it did boy-bands. iMacs also featured in the BBC's Watchdog consumer-affairs series (for all the right reasons!) and several TV ads. Apple's largest audience-figure hugging TV appearance goes to the ten Studio Displays on show in ITV's chart-topping Who wants to be a Millionaire. Even the iBook made a late showing on the BBC's Tomorrow's World.
Most of Apple's television advertisements ran in the UK, after a couple of barren years when Chiat-Day's TV ads contravened British and European laws on competitive slander. Apple's less aggressive ads of 1999 are likely softer so that they'll run in Europe as well as the US.
While Apple spent most of marketing budget on TV and, to a lesser extent, print advertising, potential customers' chances of actually touching a Mac lessened greatly. After appearing in many high-street Dixons electronics stores at the start of the year, iMacs gradually disappeared from the shelves in favour of more beige Windows PCs.
And, most dramatically, Apple cancelled its own Mac show in the UK. The tale of Apple Expo 2000 is a long and bitter one. Apple had pulled out the 1998 show, organizing its own event for 1999. It cancelled that in mid-year, promising a "bigger and better" event in 2000. Three months later, that too was killed off - this time to be replaced by nothing. The UK Mac show was no more. See www.macworld.co.uk/expoexit for the full, chaotic story.
Apple set off another PR bomb when it bungled its announcement that, from Mac OS 9 onwards, there would no longer be a British-English version of its Mac operating system. Just as they had with the Expo debacle, readers emailed Macworld Online in their hundredplaining about the move. Click here for another full, chaotic story.
Before Apple US could demoralize its UK managers any further, it pre-empted Christmas by sacking half of its marketing employees.
So attack after attack on Apple UK's independence and UK customers' own language has left a rather bad taste in the mouth, this side of the Atlantic. TV ads and appearances to the fore, but users out of sight and mindlessly ignored.
Better luck next year, Apple UK... see you in Paris!
Tell us what you think about Apple's 1999 by joining in the debate at the Macworld Forum.