Samsung recently took out a full-page advertisement in major newspapers throughout the country touting its Galaxy SIII smartphone over Apple's iPhone 5. The ad is a side by side comparison of the two phones. Is the comparative ad effective? Let's take a look at the potential user classes that might view the ad and see.
The first user class is users who currently have an iPhone and are looking to upgrade to either the new iPhone or a different smartphone. First of all the statistics indicate that only 9% of iPhone users are likely to switch to Android in the next six months. But let's put that statistic aside and examine if the ad gives current owners a solid reason to switch over to Samsung's handset. It does not. IPhone owners are not concerned about all the technical specs of their phones. They just like that their phone is easy to use and that it just works. After comparing the technical specs, Samsung goes on to name a bunch of additional features that the iPhone does not have. Current iPhone customers, however, will have no idea what these features actually do and will most likely not remember them after viewing the ad. In addition, the title of the ad, "It doesn't take a genius" directly plays on Apple's Genius Bar branding. The Genius Bar is where customers can go to get support from an Apple store. This title actually works against Samsung and underscores the fact that Samsung does not have stores where its customers can go to get support. The only thing that the ad communicates slightly well is the fact that the Samsung smartphone has a larger screen than the iPhone. However, this fact is not clear because the devices are shown tilted at an angle, which makes comparing the screen size directly challenging. In addition, the iPhone's screen is turned off, which makes a direct comparison even more difficult.
The second user class is those users who currently have an Android device and are looking to upgrade their phone. I think this ad targets these users slightly better than the first user class I mentioned. These users are more open to switching to Apple so they need to be convinced to stay with Android for their next phone purchase in contrast to the first user class that needs to be convinced to switch. The ad with its direct comparison shows that the Samsung device is as, if not more, capable than the iPhone. This informs users that choosing Android will not mean that they miss out on some essential features. However, this ad does nothing to differentiate the Samsung Galaxy SIII from all of the other Android smartphones that are very capable in feature sets. Many other devices have screens that are just as large. The ad does not associate a particular sign with the Samsung device so it fails to distinguish it from other Android phones.
The third user class is consumers who are looking to buy a smartphone for the first time. These users do not have much experience using a smartphone and probably do not have a very good idea of the particular features they are looking for. They will go to a store, talk to a salesperson, and use the different devices to get an idea of what they like. In this regard, the ad with its side by side comparison of technical specs and arbitrary features does little to convince a novice consumer to go with the Samsung product over the Apple one.
Apple also recently had a full page ad in the same newspaper. Here's a picture of the ad:
Their ad is much simpler than that of Samsung's. Their ad is paired with a sign of simplicity. It cleanly communicates that the new iPhone is better. It states some simple specifications: "4-inch Retina display, ultrafast wireless, iOS 6 in a thinner, lighter designer." This is much easier for all of the different user classes to understand. It communicates to existing iPhone users that there is a new iPhone out and that it just as simple to use as their old phones yet is better. It is faster, thinner, and lighter. This pairing of the iPhone with simplicity sets it apart from the Android world in where there are so many different models to choose from and the user experience is all but guaranteed. For the second class of users, existing Android users, it communicates that there is a new sleek looking phone available from Apple but not much reason is given for those users to switch to iPhone from Android. The ad serves to inform these users that a new phone is available so if they are looking to upgrade it would be a good time to go with Apple. But many Android phones have large displays, and are fairly thin and light, so not much distinction is made between Apple and competing devices. For the third class of users, that don't understand a lot of smartphone lingo, they have no problem understanding the terms "most", "thinner", "lighter," and "ultrafast." They also recognize the distinctive look of the iPhone which they have inevitably seen on the streets and in the hands of their friends. So they are reminded of its popularity. When they go to the store, they will remember that a new iPhone has come out and will most likely look at it.
Both Samsung's and Apple's newspaper ads feature images of phones with text describing some of their capabilities. Samsung has a comparsion ad that fails to leave much imprint on of all the user classes whereas Apple's simple ad resonates well with both exisiting iPhone users and users looking to purchase a smartphone for the first time. How users will actually decode these two advertisements can only be speculated, however.