Here are some clues to look for in Apple’s advertising that will indicate that dull hands are grabbing at the wheel:
1. Creeping Brandism: The Apple brand was built bottom-up. That is, the products defined the brand. Virtually every Apple ad was about a product, not the brand (okay, there was “Think Different” but that didn’t last.) Keep an eye out for the erosion of this discipline.
2. Agency change: Vapid marketing people relegated to the background all these years by Jobs’ dominance may suddenly start flexing. They wouldn’t dare contradict Jobs’ legacy, but they could accomplish the same thing by undermining the agency.
3. The Tortured Logic of Account Planning: Look for ads about you the consumer instead of Apple products. Look for moronic online “engagement” gimmicks. Or look for social media pandering.
4. Complications: Part of the brilliance of Apple advertising has been its simplicity. Keep an eye out for complicated ideas or ads with more than one product.
5. Media: Apple has used online media sparingly. The preponderance of its advertising has been conducted in traditional media — TV, print, and outdoor. Watch to see if Apple suddenly starts going all trendy and new age in its media choices.
If you start seeing any of these signs coming out of Cupertino, sell your shares.
Advertising will be an early indicator of whether people without vision and taste are moving in at Apple. It will be interesting to watch.