‘I’m a PC’ guy John Hodgman: In Apple Mac ads, ‘I’m a legitimate buffoon’

“There are really two John Hodgmans. One is well known to viewers of Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show’ as the ‘resident expert’ who offers preposterously inaccurate assessments of such things as Alan Greenspan’s retirement and Iran’s atomic aspirations. He’s even more widely familiar to those who have seen Apple Computer’s recent spate of ads, in which he appears as the comically fusty PC, stealing the show from actor Justin Long’s slacker-cool Mac,” Matthew DeBord reports for The Los Angeles Times.

DeBord reports, “The other Hodgman, by all accounts, is a sweet man, devoid of enemies and pretense, a father of two and husband for seven years to a high school teacher, Katherine Fletcher. He worked for a while as a New York literary agent, then, with the aid of literary It Boy Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s website in the late 1990s, he was able to revive the persona of the egghead humorist. Hodgman contributed offbeat, ridiculous essays that allowed him to shape and tone his approach to comedy; eventually, he was called on to emcee McSweeney’s reading nights. That led to his writing a book of comically fabricated trivia, ‘The Areas of My Expertise,’ and his becoming a contributor to the popular public-radio show ‘This American Life’ and then to ‘The Daily Show’ and the Apple ads.”

DeBord reports, “Maintaining stiffness hasn’t been a problem for the PC character he has now portrayed in more than a dozen Apple ads. The setup is simple. Against an iPod-white background, Hodgman and Long (who was in the movie ‘The Break-Up’ and appeared on the TV series ‘Ed’) introduce themselves: ‘I’m a Mac,’ Long reports. ‘And I’m a PC,’ Hodgman adds. Wardrobe tells all. Long is Wicker Park-Williamsburg-Silver Lake, in jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers, unshaven. Hodgman is exurban Microsoft middle-management, in drab business suits or conservative sport coats.”

DeBord reports, “What follows, through numerous variations, is in Hodgman’s interpretation a ‘vaudeville comedy duo,’ with Long as the straight man to Hodgman’s buffoon. As the campaign, which was created by TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles, has developed, perceptive viewers have come to pity Long, not least because Hodgman is perfectly cast. ‘I’m a legitimate buffoon,’ he said. In other words, these ads are an inadvertently ideal context for Hodgman’s throwback persona, Jackie Gleason by way of New Yorker founder Harold Ross. Increasingly, the balance of the actual acting has shifted away from Long toward Hodgman, a development that Hodgman downplayed. ‘I’ve never been interested in playing a character,’ he said. ‘I’m not playing anything other than a version of myself.'”

DeBord reports, “This attitude hasn’t prevented Hodgman from peering, method-style, into PC’s motivation. ‘He’s well-meaning, if a little arrogant. He believes he’s there to help the Mac.’ He’s also sussed out Long’s role. ‘Justin’s job is to react.'”

Full article here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Tech writer says Apple’s ‘Get a Mac’ commercials don’t work – October 16, 2006
Do Apple’s latest ‘Get a Mac’ ads work? – October 11, 2006
Apple debuts three new ‘Get a Mac’ ads online [UPDATED] – October 09, 2006
‘I’m a PC’ guy John Hodgman really an Apple Mac user – September 25, 2006
USA Today Ad Track poll for Apple’s ‘Get a Mac’ campaign shows above-average consumer response – September 18, 2006
Apple debuts major Mac OS X print campaign with 14-page ‘Get a Mac’ booklet – September 07, 2006
More new Apple ‘Get a Mac’ ads – one featuring Gisele Bündchen – seen in Apple Retail Store – September 05, 2006
Critiquing Apple’s new ‘Get a Mac’ ads – August 28, 2006
Apple debuts three new ‘Get a Mac’ ads – August 27, 2006
Nearly 20 more ‘Get a Mac’ TV spots ready to roll – August 11, 2006
Apple’s ‘Get a Mac’ ads too harsh? – July 31, 2006
Apple debuts three new ‘Get a Mac’ ads (with video) – June 12, 2006
Apple: ‘Get a Mac. Say ‘Buh-Bye’ to viruses’ – June 01, 2006
Expert panel critiques Apples’ new ‘Get a Mac’ ad TV campaign – May 15, 2006
Do Apple’s new ‘Get a Mac’ ads generate animosity among the uninitiated? – May 08, 2006
Why Apple’s new ‘Get a Mac’ campaign will fail – May 04, 2006
Apple’s ‘Get a Mac’ campaign seizes the moment as Microsoft suffers Windows Vista setbacks – May 04, 2006
iTWire’s Beer: Apple’s new ‘get a Mac’ campaign misses, preaches to converted – May 04, 2006
Apple debuts ‘Get a Mac’ TV ads, new section of website replaces ‘Switch’ (link to watch ads online) – May 01, 2006

14 Comments

  1. Don’t you just LOVE the so-called analysts on this site and others who opine that these ads don’t WORK for Apple? Well, I guess they DON’T . . . if you can somehow ignore the massive upswing in Mac sales to old and NEW users alike.

    Must run now; have to place an order for the brand new MacBook Pro 17″!

  2. Hey, Jos Nijhoff?
    Might I suggest, then, that you bring your decades of commercial successes over to TBWA/Chiat/Day, along with your resume?
    I’m sure that they’re willing to try your method, once you’ve demonstrated the millions of dollars that your ad campaigns have generated.

  3. I don’t know if these ads directly help Mac sales, but they certainly keep Macs in the public eye and FINALLY discuss the Mac’s abilities rather than simply show its great design (like the old iMac ads where the iMac sticks out its tongue).

    The real evidence it that people remember that these ads are Mac v. PC. PC is the buffoon and Mac gets things done.

    Very different from the Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” ads, where people took to the ads but didn’t remember or associate them with Wendy’s. With these ads, people know that Macs are the good guys in the ads, and PCs are not.

  4. Except for a few very rare exceptions, ads don’t sell product.

    Ads sell product “awarenes” and product “image.”

    These ads have served those purposes quite well. There is no denying that. They’re referred to as a “homerun.”

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