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Huawei hires 'I'm a Mac' pitchman to take on Apple in US ad blitz

Actor Justin Long, who in the mid to late 2000s served as the de facto face of Apple for his part in the "Get a Mac" ad campaign, has been hired by Huawei to star in a new series of commercials touting the Chinese upstart's smartphones.

Buying the former spokesman of a major competitor to peddle your own wares is a bold move, but that's exactly what ad agency WPP Blast Radius had in mind when they approached Long for the job, reports Campaign US.

The actor's history with Apple is the primary reason he was considered, according to Blast Radius group director Jessica Grizzel.

"It certainly was key when we considered Justin as a possible partner for Huawei," Grizzel said of Long's experience with the Cupertino tech giant.

The ad agency was actually pushing for a more direct approach that would "call out" Long's relationship with Apple, but the former Mac pitchman and Huawei convinced Grizzel to reach "a nice middle ground where that idea is inferred as opposed to explicitly stated."

The first of Long's commercials for Huawei finds the actor playing himself, interviewing for a chance to direct a commercial spotlighting the company's Mate 9 smartphone. Aptly titled "The Interview," the 60-second spot has Long seated across from a Mate 9. The actor rattles off his achievements as the smartphone communicates via emoji, photos and video.

"The storyline for the video series positions Justin as a new director providing guidance to a series of Huawei products as they are looking to break into the market and make their mark," Grizzel said. "There is no doubt that Justin's history as a pitch-man for Apple adds a nice subtext to the videos and builds on Huawei's challenger position in the market."

From 2006 to 2009, Long played the part of "Mac" across John Hodgman's "PC" in the award winning "Get a Mac" ad campaign dreamed up by TBWA\Chiat\Day. Each spot started with the lines "Hello, I'm a Mac" and "I'm a PC," and pitted cool man Long against Hodgman's often bumbling character. The relationship between the two was always friendly, but Mac consistently trumped PC on everything from computer viruses to software updates. Apple's ads pitched Mac as the slick, cool computer, while PC was frumpy and past its prime.

In December, those involved with "Get a Mac" gathered to commemorate the campaign's 10th anniversary, sharing anecdotes about the production and how it came to be. For example, the team shot 323 spots, but only 66 made it to air.

Though Long has not appeared in an official Apple ad since 2009, his persona is often linked with the tech giant. Long later banked on his ties to the company in 2013 when he played late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs in a satirical biopic produced by Funny or Die.

As for Huawei, the company unseated Apple as China's top smartphone vendor in 2015 and — like every other smartphone manufacturer — is looking to take the mantle of world's largest handset producer. Though Apple continues to lose ground in China, iPhone doesn't show signs of ceding its rein as the world's most popular smartphone brand.

On Tuesday, Apple announced record-setting revenue of $78.4 billion for the first quarter of 2017, largely driven by 78.3 million iPhone sales, an all-time high. Tellingly, iPhone's average selling price for the quarter hit $695, another record for the company.