How Apple translated its ‘Get a Mac’ ads for overseas markets

“When Apple wanted to bring its series of ‘Mac vs. PC’ ads to international markets, it faced a difficult issue: What’s funny in one culture can seem ill-mannered in another,” Geoffrey A. Fowler, Brian Steinberg, and Aaron O. Patrick report for The Wall Street Journal.

“To recreate the delicate dynamic in the U.K., Apple hired two moderately well-known actors, David Mitchell and Robert Webb, who have their own TV sitcom in Britain called ‘Peep Show.’ The actors play characters similar to their roles in the show, which follows the lives of two friends sharing a London flat. Mr. Mitchell’s character, a bank loan officer, is sensible and stuffy. Mr. Webb plays a musician who is sociable and uninterested in getting a regular job,” Fowler, Steinberg, and Patrick report.

Fowler, Steinberg, and Patrick report, “The U.K. versions hew closely to the original, though some dialogue is made more relevant to local audiences. In one U.S. ad that shows the PC suffering from a terrible cold,meant to represent a computer virus, the bug is a ‘doozy.’ But in the U.K., the virus is a ‘humdinger.’ TBWA also wrote a new spot for the U.K. that uses a real statistic to deliver one of the key messages of the campaign: that PCs are designed for work and Macs for fun. In the ad, Mac points out Brits work longer hours than any other nationality in Europe. ‘And they get less holidays,’ says PC. ‘Smashing, isn’t it?'”

Full article, with more including the Japanese versions of Apple’s TV ads, here.


  1. Haven’t seen any of these ads here in The Netherlands. Apple advertising in Europe never seems to get further than happy youngsters dancing with ipods. It’s a bloody shame that Apple doesn’t show ads with OSX, no wonder 80% of office workers here still thinks that Windows is the only option (they heard about Linux but find testing their patience and learning curve too much if they try at all). It’s unbelievable Macs are selling better over here despite all this dad fact. Imagine what would happen if Apple actually bothered to inform people about OSX. They would see through the Vista toutings in a day and switchers would double or triple. The Vista marketing over here will . If Microsoft can sell a lame product with a few ads, why can’t Apple be serious about showing OSX and leave Windows in the dust? Apple OSX marketing is hitting double bogeys day after day. We need some birdies!!

  2. one of the key messages of the campaign: that PCs are designed for work and Macs for fun

    The message this sends is that Apple has given up on the business market and is content to settle for the home buyer. We know this isn’t really the case, so I wish Apple would just drop this strand in their PC/Mac campaign. Indeed, they are inconsistent even within the campaign itself: Macs have had MIcrosoft Office for years (but is that fun?); or again, PCs do fun things too (albeit not so easily).

    As I have said here before, Apple is doing better than ever in the English education market, but this campaign does nothing to convince high school IT managers – who are often very akin to their commercial counterparts – of the platform’s real strengths and versatility.

  3. I don’t believe these ads have actually screened on TV here in the UK (correct me if I’m wrong, but they’re just print ads driving people to the web site), so to those whingeing about not having local versions – at least Apple is advertising in your territory.

  4. Barney: Brits get FEWER holidays, not LESS holidays.

    Actually, “Holiday” does not mean a day off in the UK as it does in the US. A “Holiday” in the UK is what Americans call a vacation, and indeed, the brits DO get LESS holidays than the rest of Europeans.

    From the Dictionary on my Mac:

    holiday |ˌhɒlɪdeɪ| |-di| noun a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done : December 25 is an official public holiday. • [as adj. ] characteristic of a holiday; festive : a holiday atmosphere. • chiefly Brit. (often holidays) a vacation : I spent my summer holidays on a farm | Fred was on holiday in Spain.

    less |lɛs| adjective & pronoun a smaller amount of; not as much : [as adj. ] the less time spent there, the better | [as pron. ] storage is less of a problem than it used to be | ready in less than an hour. • fewer in number : [as adj. ] short hair presented less problems than long hair | [as pron. ] a population of less than 200,000.

  5. My company here in the UK allows me to take 20 days holiday a year whenever I want, plus the office closes down for the Christmas week (+5 days) ontop of which are the public holidays (May Day, Easter, etc).

    BTW, the Mitchell & Webb ads are rubbish – they’ve really miscast the actors in the roles of Mac & PC.

    Mitchell (PC) isn’t sympathetic as the put-upon, Windows-suffering business box, while Webb (Mac) is neither cool or likeable.

    Together, the actors are just too identifiable with their on-screen characters from the ‘Peep Show’ TV series, which a large part of the public doesn’t watch or find funny.

  6. “Together, the actors are just too identifiable with their on-screen characters from the ‘Peep Show’ TV series, which a large part of the public doesn’t watch or find funny.”

    Well done Bartsimpsonhead – a good example of how to completely contradict yourself in the space of one short sentence.

    Actually the “PCs are designed for work and Macs for fun” ad is a mistake for Apple in the UK. People who’ve seen that ad get confused by it because it seems to reinforce the very reason they won’t consider a Mac – the idea that Macs are just toys.

  7. bbbluuuuurrrggghhhhh: Read again, its says Brits get fewer holidays than other Europeans, not Americans. Its well known that Americans get stupidly little holiday. I get 5 weeks a year and most people gasp at that.

    pffftttt: The point he was making was not about the definition of holiday, but that it is grammatically correct to say “fewer” rather than less.

    IQ seems a bit low in here today?

  8. In Japan, as the article notes at the end, the PC Nerd look has more of a positive cultural value than the Mac’s relaxed look which tends have to a negative cultural value. The commercials are funny to me, but I am not Japanese.

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