Consumers just aren’t that into the whole “Designed by Apple in California” thing:

According to data from Ace Metrix, a consulting firm that analyzes the effectiveness of TV commercials through surveys, Apple’s new ad scores just 489 points on its scoring system, far below previous Apple campaigns.

The industry average is 543 points, and other Apple commercials have received in excess of 700 points. So what’s the problem with the new ads?

“Apple was never a company that bragged about itself,” Edward Boches, a professor of advertising at Boston University, told Bloomberg. “In a manifesto ad, it’s hard not to come across as self indulgent. And even though it suggests the wonderful things Apple products can do, the ad lacks joy.”

Around the time Steve Jobs died, some smart Apple observer (I wish I could locate the link) came up with a way to try and determine if the company was losing its footing. His caution? If Apple started running ads about Apple. “We’re Apple. We’re awesome. We’re Apple.” Loser companies tell you how great they are. Winners show you the product.

60084-525-393When Jobs came back to Apple in 1996-97, he made it a 100% product-focused company. And that is what it’s remained, even if increasingly the products are digital services rather than slick hardware. That focus has always been most visible in the company’s advertising, which is the product, the whole product, and nothing but the product.

“This is the iWidget. This is how awesome it is. This is the iWidget.”

Set it to a bouncy pop tune and you’re done — deceptively simple, chillingly effective.

The product was always front and center, with little mention of the company at all other than the iconic logo. The furthest Apple got away from that was in its famous “Get a Mac” ads, in which the Macintosh (and also the PC) were played by likable actors. We never saw a Mac in action, but we still got the idea: Mac was cool, relaxed, easier to use.

That’s still very product-centric.

Oh, and the ads were “Get a Mac,” not “Get an Apple Mac.” That’s an important distinction to make here.

Now here we have Apple’s “Blah blah blah we’re a cool company ad,” and all I can think is, No wonder consumers are rejecting it. Don’t show us the cool company; show us the cool product. The product makes the company cool, not the other way around. Jobs once said that “marketing is about values,” and from Apple’s marketing we know that the company values making good product above anything else.

The only time I can remember Apple thinking different about its ads was the famous “Think different” ad from ’97, but that was a special circumstance. Jobs had just returned, the Jobsian products didn’t exist yet, and the company had just nearly gone spectacularly broke. Jobs had even been forced to make peace with, and take money from, arch-nemesis Bill Gates. People then needed to be reminded that the Apple they remembered might still exist, and Think Different reminded us of exactly that. “Here’s to the crazy ones… ” it began.

It still rings.

But 2013 is not 1997. Nobody anywhere needs to be reminded about the behemoth that is Apple, Inc.

Here’s the new spot. Judge for yourself.

Is there anything in there to make you think different? It certainly didn’t do anything for me.

So is my forgotten Apple pundit right? Does this one ad herald the end of its fantabulous run? I think it heralds the end of Apple’s fantabulous run of near-flawless TV ads, that’s for sure. The spot is merely self-indulgent, and not in a good way like adding an extra finger of scotch to your rocks glass. I’d be worried — much more worried — if this spot had aired and Apple hadn’t just introduced iOS 7, OS X Mavericks, and the all-new Mac Pro. And talk about new directions: The company made almost zero performance bumps in the new MacBook Airs, concentrating instead on providing battery life that puts 10-hour tablets to shame.

No, product-wise, this company is still firing on all cylinders. When Phil Schiller was done demoing the Mac Pro at WWDC a couple weeks ago, he joked, “Can’t innovate, my ass,” and a well-deserved cheer went up from the crowd. And from me watching here at my desk.

Apple goofed with a single ad, and it’s a mistake I hope they don’t repeat. The product is still there; it just needs to be brought back to front and center where even the crazy ones can see it.