The Macalope Weekly: Dubious conclusions

Tim Cook’s compensation package gets revised to be more incentive-based? Apple’s dead. Apple runs an image ad, just like other companies do (and Apple itself has done in the past)? It’s a dud that shows Cupertino is out of ideas. Yes, it’s another week with the Macalope!

Over compensating

Oh, Rocco Pendola. Why can’t the Macalope quit you? Is it your hair? Your charming Twitter presence? Your over-the-top headlines and ridiculous standards for Apple?

“There’s No Question Now: Apple is Dead.”

Now, what Pendola means here is “The Old Apple is Dead.” Which is, of course, not true either.

It’s official:

Hey! You can’t do that! Using “It’s official” before something bad that you just made up about Apple is a registered trademark of Henry Blodget and Business Insider!

Apple’s Board of Directors and executive team, led by Tim Cook, clearly never had or have completely lost any real respect for Steve Jobs.

Really?

[sigh]

So, what’s got Pendola’s dander up this time? You’d think those gorgeous locks would keep even the most insistent dander down.

Well, it’s Apple’s board modifying Tim Cook’s compensation to be based on Apple’s performance. So, now, Cook only gets his whole package if Apple does well compared to other companies. Which seems like kind of a weird thing to get upset about, right? Well, in Pendola’s eyes, this is simply something that “the old Apple” under Steve Jobs never would have done.

Does anyone think that the core of Jobs’s legacy had anything to do with Apple’s relationship with its shareholders? This is the company that backdated Jobs’s stock options, after all.

Pendola doesn’t find that the same, however, as basing Cook’s performance on a stock market index.

I don’t agree that it’s in the ballpark. In fact, it’s not even in the same league. Do a Google search for “Steve Jobs backdated options” and, after a small bit of memory refreshing, I think you’ll agree.

Actually, the Macalope is very familiar with the Jobs options drama of 2006, as he cut his teeth on it back then. If you don’t think backdating is the same as indexing, then how about the replacement shares Jobs was given? As the Macalope argued with others back in 2006, their value was most likely computed using the Black-Scholes model, which uses the value of a portfolio and the interest rate as some of its inputs.

Regardless, it’s certainly an improvement over many of the nigh risk-free packages some of Cook’s peers get.

First, it’s an easy move to make when you’re already rich beyond comprehension.

Uh, OK, but pretty much everything is easier when you’re rich beyond comprehension. That’s never stopped most of our captains of industry from trying to become rich beyond the comprehension of lifeforms that make us look like insignificant specks of space dust. There is only downside risk to Cook from this move. Did Pendola lose a bet with CNBC’s Jon Fortt and have to take the “against” side on this one?

Second, don’t buy the superficiality of the argument that this is good for shareholders because Apple brass now has real incentive to see the stock price rise. Tied to the first point, this is not real, true incentive.

Oh, jeez, Rocco, then what do you suggest? Some sort of macabre Looper-esque incentive program involving Cook’s limbs? How, other than financially, are we supposed to motivate people in a capitalist society? Snausages? A scritch behind the ears?

OK, that one actually works for the Macalope.

This is just another example of Apple losing its way, operating like every other company.

“Never ask what I would do. Just do what’s right.” - Steve Jobs

Trying to haul Steve Jobs out of the grave to beat Tim Cook over the head is an utterly pointless exercise. No one knows what Jobs would do now, least of all those of us who never met the man.

Truly, though, there never was an “old Apple,” at least since Jobs came back. Because since he came back, Apple has been about change. Jobs buried the hatchet with Microsoft. He renamed the company. He continually murdered his own darlings and, contrary to pundit belief, took the advice of the people who worked for him. People like Tim Cook.

If Tim Cook really wants to tie his pay to performance, why doesn’t he use unit sales of Apple’s next big piece of hardware as the benchmark, not a market index that’s coming off of one of history’s biggest bull runs?

Hey! That’s a great idea! Then he can just price it to sell and make a bajillion more dollars!

Come on, Rocco. This tea is so weak it isn’t even tea—it’s warm water with a brown crayon dissolved in it. And you’re all out of crayon.

Ad rage

Apple’s been playing new image ads since WWDC and ♫ guess what the reaction to them’s been! ♫

“Apple’s TV Ads Touting Company Values Flop With Viewers”

The company’s latest ad, which began airing June 10, has earned the lowest score of 26 Apple TV ads in the past year, according to Ace Metrix Inc., a consulting firm that analyzes the effectiveness of TV ads through surveys of at least 500 TV viewers.

Well. That’s that, then. Probably no reason to ask any further questions. Let’s just take the word of “Ace Metrix” and never question what their customer relationships are.

Oh, wait, let’s not do that at all.

Ace Metrix™, the new standard in television analytics, today announced Samsung has joined its roster of advertising clients, subscribing to the Ace Metrix LIVE™ platform.

And if you guessed that Bloomberg’s Peter Burrows neglected to mention this little tidbit in his report on the Apple flop, well, that’s why you’re one of the Macalope’s nubile and well-exfoliated readers.

But, wait! That’s not the only thing about Ace Metrix that smells like Paula Deen during an interview in Vibe (oh, like you thought the Macalope wouldn’t throw in a shot about that). No, as CNet’s Chris Matyszczyk points out, this is the firm that said the Microsoft Surface dancing idiots ad was the most effective tablet ad of 2012.

Sooo, let us say that Ace Metrix’s results are somewhat suspect. It’s possible the way it gets 500 people to talk about these things is by plying them with liquor. Or by hanging out in front of the 7-11 on a Saturday night and asking the first 500 people that show up to randomly answer yes or no.

For the sake of balance, the Macalope will point out that he’s equally dubious of Piper Jaffray’s consistent pro-Apple results in its surveys. For starters, the “we sat in a mall for two hours” methodology doesn’t exactly seem like it’s a sufficiently large enough sample. But, as it turns out, Apple is a Piper Jaffray client.

No, it is not necessarily true that these firms skew their results in favor of their clients, but it’s certainly worth considering—and don’t kid yourself that it doesn’t happen.

For his part, Matyszczyk isn’t impressed with Apple’s “Designed by Apple in California” ads:

Even when it created the “Here’s To The Crazy Ones” ad, it never talked of itself. It simply added its logo to a sentiment.

Actually, wrong!

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

But even if Apple hadn’t done so, the Think Different spot was obviously an image ad, an attempt to say “This is who we are,” just like the “Designed by Apple in California” ad. Maybe your average viewer really doesn’t like the ad. But it’s as much for Apple’s employees as it is for Apple’s customers. Apple is on the verge of another stage in its history, a stage in which everything the company makes is something Steve Jobs never saw. The Macalope doesn’t expect that the ad will run that long, but it’s an important time to put a stake in the ground.

Silver bullets

Turns out a lot of pundits are gleaning amazing insights from this ad.

Forbes “contributor” (disclaimer: not really contributing that much) Scott Davis thinks it’s a sign of “Apple’s Fall From Leading To Lagging Brand” (no link for Forbes).

Apple has become a challenger that now needs to look up to other leaders across the multiple categories it competes in and figure out what to do next.

Really. And what is it exactly that these “other leaders” are producing that Apple is going to copy?

And the answers aren’t clear.

Possibly because you have mixed up cause and effect. That happens.

Yes, Apple has the largest market cap in the world (although it continues to plummet). And yes, the App Store continues to be a cash cow. But in the war for perceptions, the war for coolness …

The war for things where I can arbitrarily judge winners.

… the war for technological ingenuity …

The Macalope would love to hear who Davis thinks is providing more technological ingenuity than Apple. Alas, he never says.

… the war for who is most clever or who garners the highest degrees of anticipation, Apple is falling way short.

Because no one’s interested in or talking about iOS 7 or the Mac Pro.

You know, pundits, it’s worth reading through a piece out loud just once to see if anything makes you pause and say “Uh … yeah, OK, that doesn’t make any sense.”

This is just another example of the collective amnesia that afflicts the modern technology pundit. We are only left to wonder about its cause. Fluoridation in our drinking water? Vaccinations? Blunt-force trauma? Difficult to say. Similarly, many pundits find the reaction to iOS 7 unprecedented, when it’s virtually identical to the reaction to Aqua back in the very late 1990s.

DEVELOPER: Oh, my God, that’s so ugly!

[Pause]

[Begins coding]

Some see the ad as similar to Chrysler’s heroic return ad, “Made in Detroit.” But Apple’s campaign signals desperation – it’s nothing like Chrysler’s and isn’t nearly as effective.

Yes, imagine the desperation Apple executives must feel as they look out on a sea of cash … nothing but cash as far as the eye can see … soooo muuuuuch caaaaash …

I see it as a frantic, faux-patriotic yearning for a time that is long gone, targeted to no one in particular, trying to reclaim a positioning from years’ past with no new innovation to back up the claim …

Again, unlike with Samsung or Google, Apple innovation is counted solely as “entirely new product categories that are currently shipping to the general public.”

In fact, I’m left wondering what Apple’s done for me lately and hoping against hope that they’ll follow this benign campaign with the kind of kick-ass innovation that will leave customers and pundits like me gasping for air. You know – making touchscreen Apple TVs …

What the ... ?

… or finding a way to slip Siri, along with other technology, into an Apple watch. But there are no signals that this is coming, and with Apple signaling is everything.

Apple. The company that almost never pre-announces anything and is notoriously tight-lipped. The company whose CEO “doubled down” on secrecy. That’s the Apple for which “signaling is everything.”

Huh.

Thus, Apple seems to be seriously close to slipping into challenger brand mode here, looking up to the leader in the category and wondering what they can do to usurp a new dominating leader’s position. Whether it is the iPhone looking up at Samsung …

Mmmhrmwha? And, of course, there’s no explanation for that assertion.

… iRadio looking up at Pandora/Spotify, or iWatches looking up to Nike …

Sure, just like the iPhone “looked up” to the BlackBerry and Windows Mobile when it was launched.

… Apple needs to come up with several silver bullets to build back lost relevance and ultimately inspire, influence and compel once again.

The only silver bullets Apple needs to come up with are ones that can kill silly pundit zombie myths about the company’s inability to innovate.

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