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.


  • SanDisk is losing side and now just resorts to attacks when it can’t beat the iPod itself. That’s it.

    mcfactor had this to say on May 29, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Selbs, I’d hate to think how much your therapy bills cost.

    Calista, you know I love you but are you kidding me? The iPod/iTunes combination is the best out there…by far. As for simply just a pmp, the iPod has the best most simplistic control system (aka the click wheel) that others can’t replicate to a near half-decent standard. Bells and whistles don’t make a better automobile - much the reason why Honda/Toyota are consistantly the top rated auto makers….not because they throw a million useless poor quality gadgets on their cars…

    milklover had this to say on May 31, 2006 Posts: 22
  • I just saw the Sandisk ad on the Tube (Londoner here) and recognised it immediately for what it was: an inspired piece of guerilla marketing.

    As an iPod owner myself, I wasn’t remotely offended. I love my iPod, but it does have its limitations, and if the odd scathing, funny sideswipe make the White Monolith improve its products or services, bring it on. My experience of it to date has been mixed, but there are overtones of ‘we’re so big we just don’t care’...

    Eversoslightly off topic but one example would be when I tried to buy an iPod as a surprise birthday present for my (Canadian) partner. I called Apple Canada, which turned out to be Apple US. They couldn’t process my order because they wouldn’t let me pay for it using a UK Visa card. If I’d gone to a darned Applestore in Toronto I could have bought one, but on the global highway? No go. I had to call a friend in Toronto, who bought it on the ground and wrapped it up, but it kind of took all the fun out of it.

    So I say, More Sandisk Torpedoes! Long-live the Fifth Column! smile

    Deepwolf had this to say on Jun 02, 2006 Posts: 1
  • pretty pathetic when the man pretends to not be the man just for sales.

    those who are claiming that sandisk is doing a “good thing” by flaming apple - don’t you realize how insulting this is to you, the individual? sandisk is just another corporation, just like apple. no difference - and for them to try and play off the angle of “being for the people” is just insulting.

    anyways, jokes on them, as most punks and “nonconformists” probably can’t afford an mp3 player in the first place, and probably don’t give a damn either way.

    helenforsdale had this to say on Jun 02, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Ok, so, I don’t own an ipod, no real reason, and checked out the “idon’t” website because I thought the posters were cool- only to realize, “hey, they’re not being all anti-commercial/consumer…they’re freakin’ selling something LIKE an ipod!” 
    Hypocrite wankers. ‘Tanks.

    crashandbetty had this to say on Jun 11, 2006 Posts: 2
  • Ok, so, i don’t own an ipod, no real reason, and checked out the “i’dont” website because I thought the posters were cool- only to realize, “hey, they’re not being all anti-commercial/consumer…they’re freakin’ selling something LIKE an ipod!” 
    Hypocrite wankers. ‘Tanks.

    crashandbetty had this to say on Jun 11, 2006 Posts: 2
  • Ugh, I went to the site thinking it might actually be a “down with the man” site, and it turns out to be an advertisement for a competing product.  Didn’t the people at SanDisk ever take sales classes in college to learn that negative campaigning actually makes themselves look bad?

    blockymoo had this to say on Jun 12, 2006 Posts: 1
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