Have you seen the latest TV ad for Intel’s new processor? Kind of a Cirque de Soleil in Wonderland, as told by a Devo video. What a terrific way to say, “For all anybody watching this ad would know, computers run on powdered newt eye, pickled bat’s blood, and fairy dust. Truly, we could sell you the empty cardboard box and you wouldn’t know the damn difference. But we thought we’d make a TV commercial just to keep up the appearance of not being a monopoly anyway.”
It’s comforting to remember at times like these, that computer marketing has never had a clue in its entire history. Your average advertising designer seems to feel that trying to sell computers is like trying to sell cancer, and they’re just as lost as to where to start. Just look at these magazine ads, culled from the mighty resourceful vintagecomputerads.com, from the very dawn of the commercial computer market.
Remember, you can’t call it a computer, because the average person has no clue why they’d want to compute anything. You have to call it a “word processor”, the way a calculator is a “number processor”. To be sure those dumb customers get the idea, be sure to show actual letters flying around.
The significance of showing a Charlie Chaplin impersonator is of course the film Modern Times, in which the famous silent film clown goes crazy fighting with all of the infernal machines. You know, because that’s the only way our Luddite senior citizen market will be able to identify with these devices.
Eventually, marketers tumbled to the idea that, like Brussels sprouts, nobody in their right mind would like computers for themselves, but they would happily force it on their children if they thought it was good for them. So sell mom and dad on the educational angle of our computers! Hey, we finally sold one! Selling parents on the educational merit of computers for their kids remains a heavy play to the present time.
Boy, I sure am glad that video game companies have never tried to deceive us with box art and ads that make the game seem like it looks better than it actually does.
Let’s see here. First, computers are still futuristic, so we need an actor from a show like Star Trek to be our spokesman. Next, we pose The Shat holding one of our machines, which is doing the absolute most advanced thing it can do, which is display our logo. Oh, and we have no idea what the market value of a computer is, so we’ll just pull random numbers out of the air and see who buys what.
But, see, the computers in the movies Wargames and 2001 talked, as did the computers on Star Trek. So home computer users will obviously want their computers to talk, too. All the way back in 1982, the computer industry first made the mistake of assuming that just because a computer can do something doesn’t mean that people will find a use for it. They still haven’t learned this lesson today.
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- Vintage Computing – part 3