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$100 million for iMac ad blitz

It's the largest Apple ad campaign in history, with TV commercials starting Sunday night.

Apple Computer says it will spend a whopping $100 million on the iMac ad parade from now till Dec. 31.

The budget will make this the largest marketing campaign in company history. The iMac hits stores Saturday. New iMac television commercials will premier nationally on Sunday.

As to the content of the commercials, Lou Mazzucchelli, an analyst with Gerard Klauer Mattison, says there may be a clue on the Apple Web site. A video clip called the "Simplicity Shootout" pits a 26-year-old MBA student with a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion 8250 against a 7-year-old, assisted by a dog, with an iMac. The contest is to see who can set up and get on the Internet fastest. Guess who wins.

Mazzucchelli said he expects the TV ads to play up the theme that the iMac is "the fastest way out of the box and onto the Internet."

He also praised the radio ads which kicked off Tuesday on radio stations across the country. "If the rest of (the campaign) is as good as the radio campaign, then I think it will be very good," he said.

"We're launching this campaign because we want the world to know that iMac is the computer for the tens of millions of consumers who want to get on the Internet easily, quickly and affordably," said Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs, in a statement.

Analysts expect Apple to sell about 400,000 iMacs by the end of the year, which means the huge ad budget breaks down to about $250 per machine.

"We have a big message that we want to get out to a lot of people," said Phil Schiller, vice president of worldwide See special report:
Apple's Gambit marketing at Apple. "It is definitely the largest campaign we have ever had, just as the pre-orders are the largest we have ever had." On Monday, Apple said it had received orders for more than 150,000 iMacs. Apple started accepting pre-orders on August 3.

Apple's iMac campaign includes:

  • TV advertising: Apple's new iMac television ads will premier Sunday on The Wonderful World of Disney (ABC, 7 p.m. PST). The ads will also run on national network programs such as Seinfeld, News Radio, and The Drew Carey Show, as well as on cable shows such as South Park and Larry King Live. Ads will run in the top ten spot markets including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Seattle, Minnesota and Denver. The iMac ads focus on iMac's key features, including Internet access speed. The ads will air throughout Europe and Japan beginning in September.

  • Magazine ads: A new 12-page iMac insert will be distributed in leading consumer magazines beginning this week, including Time, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, People, Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. More than 15 million copies of the insert will be distributed in major magazines this quarter, more than double the amount of inserts Apple has distributed in the past. Apple's "think different" ads will continue to appear on the back covers of national magazines.

  • Billboards: This quarter, iMac outdoor billboards will go up in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Seattle, Minneapolis and Denver. These billboards will feature a large photo of iMac and one of the following headlines: "I think, therefore iMac," "Chic. Not geek," "Sorry, no beige," or "Mental floss."

  • Radio advertising: This week Apple launched its five-day countdown to iMac with a nationwide, 20-station U.S. radio promotion featuring iMac giveaways every day until Saturday.

    Apple is also running a supporting "countdown to iMac" radio advertising blitz on several stations in each of Apple's top ten markets. This is the largest radio campaign in the country this week, Apple said.

    The campaign follows on the heels of the "Think Different" campaign, the latest in a series of image makeovers as the company strives to present itself as a vibrant, healthy PC company.

    The grammatically novel "Think Different" campaign, a brainchild of Jobs, started running late last year. It was the first new TV ad campaign the computer maker produced since fall 1996, when it created a campaign for the education market called "Bring Learning Home."

    Bradley Johnson, a columnist for Advertising Age, said that Apple spent about $85 million for the "1984" campaign.

    "Apple spent $85 million to launch a revolution, and they are spending $100 million to launch an evolution," Johnson said. He also pointed out that Compaq Computer doubled its U.S. consumer advertising budget to about $50 million this year.

    "This means that Apple appears to be on track to do the biggest, most concentrated consumer computer campaign in history," Johnson said.

    Reuters contributed to this report.