Apple pulls plug on polarizing “Genius” TV ads

The Apple “Genius” ads that debuted with the broadcast of the Olympics’ Opening Ceremonies are no longer airing. The campaign, which showcased a member of Apple’s Genius Bar (s AAPL) staff being ready and especially eager to help Mac users out at any time or place, didn’t even make it through the entire Olympic Games — the ads spent just a week in circulation on TV.

Mashable got a statement from TBWA/Media Arts Lab, Apple’s longtime advertising agency, on why the ads are no longer airing:

A rep for TBWA/Media/Arts Lab, Apple’s ad agency, says the ads are not running anymore, but that was the plan all along. The ads were intended only for a “first run” during the Olympics, which meant just the first weekend of the Games, the rep says.

Wait, what? They shot three different ads, which appeared to be part of some sort of franchise in which the Genius helps Mac users in a variety of situations — and in the process highlight Apple’s retail stores and customer service — to run for a single weekend? It’s possible. But we know from years of experience that when Apple hits on an ad campaign that works — the iPod silhouettes, “I’m a Mac,” and even the more recent celebrities-using-Siri campaign — it’ll milk that. Sometimes for years.

Perhaps what’s most suspicious about the agency’s excuse is how familiar it is. Here’s Microsoft Chief Strategy Officer David Webseter on those much-maligned Bill Gates-Jerry Seinfeld ads the company ran several years ago:

But by the same token, we got into this really weird dynamic where people thought that because we only ran three ads and it was criticized in the blogosphere that we had somehow pulled it as a result, despite the fact that we had actually architected it that way, and that created its own obvious weird news-cycle spin. But truthfully, it got a lot of views. Amongst regular people who weren’t professionally critiquing us, they were regarded as just being funny, non-sequitur kinds of ads, and we moved into the subsequent column.

I didn’t find the ads to be as awful as others did. And, like Microsoft said about the Seinfeld spots, the Genius campaign seemed directed at reaching a different demographic than people who already count themselves Apple customers. But pulling the ads so quickly, plus the curious reasoning that it was all part of the plan, indicates that Apple may not have been delighted with the response either.