Justin Long, Apple’s Mac Guy, Jumps Ship and Is Doing Ads for Huawei

Second spot launches in Chinese brand's new series

Long references his 'Mac vs. PC' work in the campaign, but only glancingly.
Headshot of Angela Natividad

He’s a Mac. Or is he?

What’s the best way to get iPhone fans to jump ship for your brand? In Huawei’s case, it’s convincing the ultimate human symbol of Mac to interview for your new flagship phone.

Justin Long, who spent four years playing a human version of the computing system in Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” campaign by TBWA\Media Arts Lab, appears in “The Interview,” in which he eagerly pimps himself for a new gig—as a commercial director for Huawei’s Mate 9.

“I think it’d be a real thrill to get to direct commercials for Huawei,” Long begins. “I have a ton of experience in tech.”

This ad debuted at CES this year:

As an added quirk, viewers discover that the “interviewer” is not a person at all but a Mate 9 phone, which responds to Long using emoji, images and videos. Long dutifully interprets these messages while punting the phone’s many virtues.

“Here’s why I want to work for you,” he says. “You’re smart. You’re efficient. You can go two days without needing a charge. That is what I’d call impressive!”

Cue the happy-hands emoji.

The ad ends with some sassiness on the phone’s part, which also tells customers about what may well be a key value-ad.

“Alexa, since we’re going to be working together, do you mind if I call you Al?” Long asks.

“My name is Alexa,” says the clipped voice many now recognize from their Echo devices. That’s right! The Mate 9 is not only co-engineered with Leica (hence its gorgeous photos, which Long also points out); it includes Amazon Alexa. (Some people just like her more than Siri, who is less admired for her efficiency than her snarkiness.)

To see how Long’s faring in his new gig, just watch the second ad, “The Audition,” which went live earlier this week:

Here, Long moves from interviewee to auditioner. The hopeful before him is a Huawei MateBook, running—wait for it!—Windows 10. (Could this be an opening for a John Hodgman cameo? Let us pray.)

“Move me, make me feel!” Long says … at which point the computer creepily full-screens an image of a younger Long with his childhood dog.

These two spots are the first in a broader series called “The Director,” created by Blast Radius Chicago. Huawei’s social channels will publish three additional installments.

In an interview with Campaign, Blast Radius group director Jessica Grizzel admits Long’s history with Apple was “key when we considered Justin as a possible partner for Huawei.” The “nice subtext” also “builds on Huawei’s challenger position in the market,” she adds.

Per Grizzel, the original concept contained “a much more emboldened approach to call out the previous relationship with Apple,” but Long and Huawei ultimately opted for “a nice middle ground where that idea is inferred as opposed to explicitly stated.”

Huawei’s Mate 9 launched in the U.S.—where Apple still holds about 40 percent of the smartphone market—in the beginning of January. The Chinese brand is the third-biggest smartphone seller in the world, after Samsung and Apple.

If you’re wondering whether Long himself feels any qualms about switching sides, don’t. In a 2010 interview with Time magazine, Long not only admitted to liking the PC character in “Mac vs. PC” more; he didn’t get the appeal of the campaign at all.

“I revere John Hodgman. He’s far smarter and funnier than I could ever hope to be,” Long said. “That’s why the point of those commercials was a little lost on me. I’m actually jealous of things he got to do. I preferred the role of the PC guy because he got to do all the fun underdog stuff. The big choice I had to make was when do I take my hands out of my pockets and how do I gesture or roll my eyes.”

“Mac vs. PC” ran 66 TV spots in all, but Long estimates they actually filmed several hundred that never saw airtime. (Don’t let Huawei into that archive.)

Client: Huawei
Agency: Blast Radius Chicago

@luckthelady angela.natividad@gmail.com Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.