The creator of Apple's best-known ad campaign left after his Mac Genius spots bombed

By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
February 3, 2013

FORTUNE — I thought Samsung’s pre-Superbowl commercial — the one featuring Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd as copy writers hamstrung by the threat of trademark lawsuits — was quite clever. Brilliant, even.

But I also wondered whether the inside joke it was making — about Apple’s AAPL long-running legal battles with Samsung — might go over the heads of viewers who don’t follow tech news as closely as I do.

So I tested the commercial on an unscientific sample of typical TV viewers (i.e. my wife). Not only did she not get the joke, but she had no idea what the ad was trying to sell.

Why would Samsung spend million of dollars on a commercial that fails to sell a product?

Two words: Scott Trattner.

Trattner was the executive creative director at Apple’s top ad agency, TBWA/Media Arts Lab, and widely credited with some of Cupertino’s most successful ad campaigns, including the long-running Get a Mac series. In August, Ad Age reported that Trattner had left TBWA/MAL after its “Mac Genius” commercials were pulled off the air.

Trattner’s new agency? 72andSunny, whose clients include K-Swiss, Target, Activision and — you guessed it — Samsung.

Without access to the inner circles of these ad agencies, any connections being made between the Mac Genius spots, Trattner’s departure and Samsung’s Superbowl ad are purely speculative. But that hasn’t stopped anyone. Here’s MacDailyNews‘ somewhat biased take:

“So – just speculating here – when your marketing genius editor [i.e. Steve Jobs] dies and is no longer there to tell you it’s “s..t,” you immediately begin making and airing widely-panned s..t, so then you shop around your ad reel (whose quality level can be attributed to your late genius editor), quit and start working for a derivative, patent infringing, peddler of plastic s..t that’s hell-bent on ripping off everything your late genius editor created – and that also has the unmitigated gall to call his products “inferior?” Sound about right to you? If so, vomitous. If not, good luck in your new endeavor, Scott!

“We all know that nothing got on the air without Steve Jobs’ stamp of approval. Once that was no longer required, the ad quality declined immediately and measurably. Celebrities hawking a beta feature [i.e. Siri] is an UNCREATIVE, LAZY move – and, you saw what happened to those “Mac Genius” ads. If you think they made a those “Mac Genius” to run once during the first few days of the Olympics only to erase all mention of them from Apple’s site and Apple’s YouTube channel just a few days later, we’ve got a nicely-priced bridge in Brooklyn with your name on it.”

Speaking of YouTube, Trattner and Samsung may yet have the last laugh. My wife doesn’t get the joke, but clearly a lot of people do. By Sunday morning, El Plato Supreme had drawn 7.5 million views on YouTube.

UPDATE: The official 2-minute Superbowl ad appeared on YouTube overnight.

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