Internal emails reveal Phil Schiller shocked by response from Apple’s ad agency over marketing direction

Phil Schiller at WWDC 2013

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the latest Apple v. Samsung trial, it’s that Phil Schiller isn’t as cool, calm, and collected at Apple HQ as he appears at each Apple keynote. We’ve already seen the Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing fret over Android marketshare and Media Arts Lab not being on par with Samsung’s advertising, and Business Insider has covered an additional email exchange revealed in the trial where an irate Phil Schiller proves he is most definitely a product of Steve Jobs. We’ve already learned that Schiller was so shaken up by Samsung’s ‘Next Big Thing’ ad campaign that he forwarded a Wall Street Journal article to Apple’s ad agency, but Schiller was furious with the agency’s somewhat defensive response…

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The WSJ article in question entitled Has Apple Lost Its Cool to Samsung provoked Schiller to declare that the two parties have “a lot of work to do to turn this around,” and Apple’s ad agency responded with a lengthy explainer about about challenges the two parties face and a number of proposals to turn the direction around.

The email, oddly void of any capitalization which would cause anyone to be as irate as Schiller, began with an attempt to align with Schiller’s statement: “We feel it too and it hurts. We understand the totally critical nature of this moment. This perfect storm of factors is driving a chilling negative narrative on Apple.”

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The agency may have rubbed Phil the wrong way when it cited the iPhone 4’s marketing woes with antennagate, or attena-gate as it wrote, as a similar precedent in Apple history.

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But it was comparing Apple in 2013 to Apple in 1997 that ultimately provoked Schiller’s one-two punch response.

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In some ways the ad agency seemed to point to examples of notable bad publiclity in Apple’s history to either align with Schiller’s concern or dismiss his assertion by relating it to larger issues from the past. No matter the intent, Schiller was not pleased.

“I am quite shocked at this response,” Schiller wrote. “To come back and suggest that Apple needs to think dramatically about how we are running our company is a shocking response.”

Schiller continued by addressing the 1997 reference: “This is not 1997. Nothing like it an any way.”

“This doesn’t sound like a path toward making great ads for iPhone and iPad that everyone inside and outside Apple are proud of. That is what we were asked to do,” Schiller concluded.

screen shot 2014-04-07 at 12.03.54 pm

Okay, maybe Steve Jobs would have had an even more direct and colorful response, but Schiller can certainly hold his own.

Nevertheless, Schiller’s reply provoked quite the apology from Apple’s ad agency. “Please accept my apologies. This was absolutely not my intention. In re-reading my email I can see how you can feel this way,” the response read.

screen shot 2014-04-07 at 12.29.28 pm

Personally, I’ll never be able to watch another Apple ad without imagining Schiller and company dishing it out over the competition. Apple’s advertising innocence: yet another casualty of Apple’s patent feuds with Samsung.

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  1. So do these ad agencies just hate using capital letters?

    • Zac Hall - 9 years ago

      Makes me wonder if they influenced the iPhone 4S becoming the iPhone 4s (and iPhone 5c and 5s instead of 5C and 5S).

    • rlowhit - 9 years ago

      seems a lot of designers tend to do this.

    • Michael (@vabene29) - 9 years ago

      Any idiot who insists on writing an email like an IM and equates this as being professional shows he (she) cares more about their “creative” image than business and getting things done. Fire the ad agency morons immediately! You can always tell the big things by the way they handle the small….

  2. rogifan - 9 years ago

    Why in the world would an ad agency compare the Apple of today to the Apple of 1997 and do so to an Apple SVP? Please tell me Apple is no longer working with this agency.

    • Mark Choi - 9 years ago

      More to the point, how could an Apple SVP be so completely clueless about Apple’s market position and financials?!? Apple was NOT anywhere near out of cash, and certainly nothing close to “six months from out of business”.
      Was this just hyperbole, or is Schiller really that clueless about the company he helps helm?

      • george (@thegeorgeli) - 9 years ago

        He was talking about 1997, the year Jobs came back. I mean none of us really knows what happened behind the scenes at Apple, but it was a common known fact that Apple was at one of its lowest points in the 1990s.

  3. RP - 9 years ago

    I’m with Schiller on this, what kind of response was that? I actually think Schiller was calm and level headed compared to how myself or anyone else would have responded to that BS. Jobs would have snapped!

    • Jacob - 9 years ago

      Exactly. Schiller was right on.

      • Mark Choi - 9 years ago

        Right on about what exactly? He was incorrect about Apple’s history, its financials, and more to the point, about its slipping public perception and the causes thereto.

      • Jacob - 9 years ago

        I’m confused. You’re saying that Schiller was wrong about Apple’s condition in 97?

      • Dan McCarthy - 9 years ago

        That seems to be what he was saying. Apple was screwed in 97. Schiller probably knows a lot more about it than you do.

        This agency response is laughable. Schiller’s point about the iPhone 5 was that everyone was saying bad things about it, yet it was successful anyway therefore the problem was purely marketing, nothing else.

        The agency seems to want Apple to stop suing Samsung and then tell everyone its product roadmap. Jobs would have canned these guys on the spot I think.

      • James Vader - 9 years ago

        dont comment here mark choi. you’re the one who is confused.

      • Colin Crawford (@ccoc) - 9 years ago

        Phil Schiller was absolutely correct about Apple’s state of affairs in 1997 – the situation was extremely dire at that time. No-one but Steve Jobs could have pulled them out of the hole they were in.

    • Alex (@Metascover) - 9 years ago

      Hoped they changed agency. How is it supposed to do good ads if they don’t understand the good position Apple is in, and only follow the trend?

      • RP - 9 years ago

        Yep, the email sounded like they didn’t even care anymore, like they were just going through the motions, milking it, asking for more and Insulting Phil and Apple at the same time. Unbelievable!

  4. Tim Jr. - 9 years ago

    I’m confused as to the authors intent? Even I’m shocked that Apple’s Ad agency was buying into the ‘media’ blitz buzz that was being spanned. The numbers in market share are drastically screaming that Apple is correct.. in-spite of not having low-end market they are dominating the mid-upper range.

    Overall, this just says Apple’s contracted Ad company was out of touch with how Apple saw the market or wanted to proceed.. Has nothing to do with panic at Apple itself..

    Everything I’ve read from here so far is nothing but spin from 9to5 and other sites to get sensationalized click! lol

    Apple focusing on a competitor and responding is a surprise? or just how they are going about it? In business all companies respond to competition.. Maybe no the same way.. but still.. they are not running down the halls going “NE NE The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!” .. as Zac and 9to5 would suggest! ROFL!

    • Mark Choi - 9 years ago

      “Even I’m shocked that Apple’s Ad agency was buying into the ‘media’ blitz buzz that was being spanned.
      “Um, maybe because that is exactly the job of a media agency?

      “The numbers in market share are drastically screaming that Apple is correct.”
      Which is irrelevant. Schiller is the one who posed the issues: Android’s increased market share, equivalence of marketing message, etc.. In other words, everything ab out public perception and nothing about overall profit.

      “they are not running down the halls going “NE NE The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!” ”
      Uh, that is pretty much exactly what the initial e-mail from Schiller implied they are doing!

      And what possible grammatical purpose are you believing you are serving with two periods?!?

  5. Brian Victor - 9 years ago

    While this is an interesting read to Apple-philes, I’m not quite sure why this is being made such a big deal. Here we see an Apple executive and business partner doing their jobs: working out how to position Apple best as a brand. There are obstacles, they discussed solutions, had a miscommunication, the offending party apologized and presumably they moved on.

    • the tech bloggers have nothing else to write about man. slow news days these days….

    • Alex (@Metascover) - 9 years ago

      That’s not the issue. Part of what makes Apple what it is, is that its core philosophy of making good products is real. People say it’s marketing, but I don’t believe it, and their products speak for themselves. These emails show that the ad agency itself didn’t understand that Apple doesn’t need to change to follow trends, as it was and still is the king in the market. On the contrary, Apple’s philosophy should be reinforced in their ads.They don’t need to follow trends, they need to show that they concentrate on making good products and keep that message FOREVER. It will NEVER get old, and people should all know that’s what Apple does. Good products.

  6. Jacob - 9 years ago

    Unlike the author, I think Schiller comes across as reasonable and astute in this exchange, not irate.

  7. John B (@jbmaxx55) - 9 years ago

    I work as a director in TV commercials. If the client that the ad agency is working for said anything like this in a meeting they would have been thrown out of the clients building or out of the window!

    • Tallest Skil - 9 years ago

      Your pronouns are confusing. Who’s being thrown out of a building?

      • Robert Nixon - 9 years ago

        They. What is so confusing about that?

      • Tallest Skil - 9 years ago

        Ah. It all makes sense now. /s

      • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

        I’m going to agree on the confusion here. Phil would be thrown out of the window? Or the Ad people?

        The way you phrase it, the only possible reading is that “if (Phil) had said this in a meeting, he would have been thrown out of (Phil’s) building (Apple HQ presumably), which makes no f*cking sense at all.

    • The fact that you’re still TV commercial director (assuming you’re not lying), and this is how string together sentences, is quite appalling that you still have a job.

  8. JasonERF (@JasonERF) - 9 years ago

    I personally find this article fascinating.

    Apple’s internal or external ads haven’t even produced something as fun as those original iPad ads like the “iPad is” “Delicious” etc. or as epic as that new Macbook air commercial “Everything we’ve learned has come down to this..”

    I’m confident they’ll find their footing and I think the “Your Verse” series is a step in the right direction.

    • RP - 9 years ago

      The “Your Verse” commercials are just throwing money away. They are solely masturbatory and ineffective as a selling tool.

  9. Eugene Smozhevsky - 9 years ago

    Almost everything talented is achieved through bumpy roads. It’s either super-smooth or it is full of bumps. And usually smaller-crew works are smoother and bigger teams are bumpier. From Leonardo Da Vinci to Star Wars to iPhone to whatever great things around you: it is true that normal constructive flow leads to average products/works of art. If there is “+” or “-” energies at work – it becomes great. So I just think the author just tries to change focus and show us a very dirty, “spoiled-child apple”. I do not buy it. I know how big teams work. There is result and choice of given people to stay on the team or not. And I know that if there is something dirty – it is a stupid stealing of someone else’s experience, work, result, life. Nothing like that in Apple and Samsung has it in DNA. Big Time. May be they will grow away (and may be they do), but still they cannot held responsibility. Like bullies. Not an apology, only a punishment.

  10. Chris Ko Hoffman - 9 years ago

    For an ad agency working with such a powerhouse as Apple to present themselves in such an amateurish fashion is beyond me. I’m truly shocked.

    Whoever the PM was coordinating this project with Apple is totally unqualified. Wow, seriously.

  11. rlowhit - 9 years ago

    I dont see Schiller as being hard nosed in this email, rather the ad agency email being very naive.

  12. PMZanetti - 9 years ago

    I gotta wonder WHO THE HELL they thought they were talking to like that. Its frigging Phil Schiller for crying out loud.

  13. Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

    When an advertising person begins with “in the last few days we have been developing …” it actually means, “just off the top of my head, how about if we do (x)?”

    Starting off the very first sentence with an obvious lie like that is really not the way to go and I find it shocking myself that they “went there.” Is Phil supposed to believe that these guys were thinking the exact same thing as he, but that without contacting him about it, they were already working on other ideas to fix it? Preposterous.

    IMO whomever wrote the email for the advertising people sounds like a teenager throughout really. Throwing off a bunch of fast ideas to change the subject, eluding any blame, and really just making sh*t up.

    If Apple is smart, they is already looking for a different company whether or not they has told these fools yet or not.

  14. Sze-Sze Thang - 9 years ago

    They need to do a Android vs iOS campaign similar to PC and Mac. Talk about Androids malware, etc.

    • thejuanald - 9 years ago

      The Mac vs PC ad campaign was full of lies and was incredibly stupid. I laughed at the one about how PC has to reboot all the time if he installs an update, yet on my Air, I am restarting constantly from updates.

      • PMZanetti - 9 years ago

        There you go with your own blatant lies. “On my Air, I am restarting constantly from updates”. Nothing could be further from the truth, and you can’t put that over on anyone. There are no updates you need to restart from except for major OS updates, which there have been all of 4 since the Air was released.

        PC’s are utter garbage. They stop working properly unless you reboot constantly, this is STILL the case in 2014. They are still infantile machines that are embarrassment compared to what Apple has built over the years with the Mac.

        YES, Apple needs to do an Android vs. iOS campaign just like Mac vs. PC of old, and while they’re at all…remind people of why PC’s are the worst thing you could rely on.

      • thejuanald - 9 years ago

        I haven’t restarted my desktop PC in over 5 months, it runs perfectly fine, and I use it as a server/gaming system. I restart my Air all the time from updates, I don’t give a shit if you think I don’t, it’s the absolute truth.

  15. “Phil Schiller isn’t as cool, calm, and collected at Apple HQ as he appears at each Apple keynote.” Uhm, are we watching the same Phil Schiller onstage at the same Apple events? That bro is the least cool, least collected exec on the stage. I’m always waiting to see a dark spot to start running down his left pant leg.

    Anyway, that was some incredible back-pedaling. Marketing people are hilarious.

    • They can’t even capitalize “Apple” ffs.

    • herb02135go - 9 years ago

      Wow, this trial is showing Apple’s nasty side. Almost like watching a milionaire’s divorce!

      Yea, Apple had always focused on building its image. Except when it wasn’t.

      Apple is looking very bad right now. It may win the trial but it is losing the “war”.

      • frankfootball - 9 years ago

        This doesn’t make Apple look bad.

  16. herb02135go - 9 years ago

    Wow, this trial is showing Apple’s nasty side. Almost like watching a milionaire’s divorce!

    Yea, Apple had always focused on building its image. Except when it wasn’t.

    Apple is looking very bad right now. It may win the trial but it is losing the “war”.

    • frankfootball - 9 years ago

      This makes Schiller look very balanced and intelligent. It doesn’t look bad at all. Think you’re on the wrong website.

  17. Jasper Yeung - 8 years ago



Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.