Apple Is Trying To Hire 1,000 New Ad Execs - Here's Why Many Of Them Are Saying 'No'


Apple Tim Cook

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Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple is in the midst of a grinding reform of its ad operations and the main victim is TBWA/Media Arts Lab, the longtime agency created at the behest of founder Steve Jobs which has fallen out of favor with its only client since Jobs' passing.


So now the company is trying to hire 1,000 new ad execs to plot and execute its $1.1 billion ad account. That's a lot of new people: "they were just dialing numbers," one exec told Ad Age.

Working at Apple ought to be the job of a lifetime ... but many execs are saying "no" because Apple isn't the plum it used to be.

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Apple's advertising has been mixed of late. Some new Apple ads are genuinely inspiring. Others - like the canceled "Genius" campaign - are terrible. But many are just "blah."

Apple's problem is that many in the ad industry don't want to work for Apple any more. Apple used to be the most prestigious brand in the world. But lately it has lost its marketing mojo. Google is now widely regarded as the better brand. Even Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller has admitted that Samsung is "feeling it" while Apple struggles to find direction on the iPhone brand.


One exec told Ad Age:

"I don't feel that energy from Apple," said one top agency exec who was approached for a post. "The revolution has come and gone, and I'm not sure a job at Apple would be a creative opportunity. If I were going to go brand-side, there are a lot more interesting companies I'd rather work for, like Coke or Pepsi."

Another exec said that it was just too expensive to live in Silicon Valley for the salaries Apple was offering:

"Do you know how expensive Cupertino is?" one exec said. "Just run property values, and even on an Apple salary, it would be tough."

Apple's other problem is that TBWA has been on its account for three decades, so other top agencies have been snapped up by rival clients. Apple can't get some of the agencies it wants to work on its business: PJ Pereira, founder of San Francisco's Pereira & O'Dell, said "We turned them down because we have relationships with both Intel/Toshiba and Skype."


The folks at TBWA are furious as they watch their historic relationship get trashed by Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller. TBWA creative chief Lee Clow and Steve Jobs used to be friends. But Clow has basically retired and Jobs is no longer with us. Apple is no longer listening to TBWA's ideas, often forcing its own upon the agency. And it's making TBWA compete for assignments. "It's the most disrespectful thing," one ex-TBWA exec told Ad Age.

In fact, it is not. The ad agency business is all about relationships, not the strength of your creative work. Apple's products don't sell because of the ads; they sell because they're great products. The ads are just the icing on a cake that TBWA doesn't make. With Jobs gone, the core Apple-TBWA relationship is gone too. It is very, very common for an ad agency to lose its assignment when a key client disappears.

TBWA may not like the position it is in. But it should not be surprised by it.