Intel Taps Justin Long, Who Played Mac in Long-Running Apple Ads, to Promote PCs

Justin Long, who for several years in the 2000s played a hipster Mac computer in Apple Inc. advertisements knocking PCs, has switched sides for a new digital ad campaign from Intel Corp.

Mr. Long began his Apple ads by saying, “Hello, I’m a Mac,” before bantering with an inept and nerdy PC played by John Hodgman.

He begins the first ads in the Intel campaign by saying, “Hello, I’m a…Justin.” The ads then depict him favorably comparing PCs running Intel technology to Apple computers.

Apple announced last year it would stop using Intel technology inside Macs in favor of chips designed by its own engineers. Apple said then the new chips would enable longer battery life in its computers, allow for faster processing and facilitate new security features.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook talked up the company’s new M1 microchip in a presentation last November. “Advancements of this magnitude only come from making bold changes,” Mr. Cook said at the time. “The M1 chip is by far the most powerful chip that we have ever created.”

Intel’s new ads, described by the company as a multimillion-dollar campaign across YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, argue Apple’s claims are overblown.

PCs have come a long way since the early 2000s, said Karen Walker, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Intel. “You can’t just say this stuff and expect us not to come back,” she said.

The ads tell the story from the perspective of Mr. Long as a real person, Ms. Walker added. “He’s grown up,” she said. “He’s not just a person trying to look cool.”

The new campaign was created with VMLY&R, part of advertising holding company WPP PLC.

It is rare but not unprecedented for recognizable endorsers to defect from one marketer to another. Paul Marcarelli, who said “Can you hear me now?” in a long-running series of Verizon ads, later appeared in ads touting that he switched to Sprint.

Like Intel’s campaign with Mr. Long, the Sprint ads present Mr. Marcarelli as now playing himself. “Hey, I’m Paul, and I used to ask if you could hear me now with Verizon, ” he says in one. “Not anymore. I’m with Sprint now.”

The tactic could help Intel break through the clutter for people who remember the earlier Apple campaign, said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys Inc., a brand consulting firm. “You’re talking about something that was absolutely classic stuff in terms of advertising,” he said, referring to the Apple effort.

But some consumers may not get the reference, Mr. Passikoff said. “Even with access to everything on the internet and YouTube, I’m not sure that everyone always remembers the initial advertising,” he said.

That means the Intel campaign also has to succeed on its own merits, he said.

Write to Nat Ives at nat.ives@wsj.com

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